Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Fizzy drinks 'should carry cigarette-style health warnings', say experts as study shows diabetes danger in just ONE sugary drink a day

This is just a beatup of a study I debunked on 26th. -- with additional reference to that persistent old crank, Robert Lustig

Lustig's extreme claims about natural fruit sugar (fructose) being a "poison" have rightly put most of the medical research fraternity against him and the research evidence  against his demonization of fructose is strong.  There are even some studies (e.g. here) that suggest that fructose is good for you.

He does seem to have crumpled under the weight of opposition  and now demonizes sugar generally, including ordinary table sugar, which is a combination of fructose and glucose.

Sugary soft drinks should carry cigarette-style health warnings on their packaging, according to experts.  Scientists warned this week that drinking one can of soft drink a day can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes by a fifth.

A major study by Imperial College London found the risk rose by as much as 22 per cent for every 12oz serving of sugar-sweetened drink – a typical can – consumed per day.

Soft drinks have previously been linked with weight gain and obesity – a well-known trigger for type 2 diabetes – but researchers say the effect goes beyond body weight and may be caused by an increase in insulin resistance.

Other research has shown that sugary drinks can damage the liver and kidneys and are linked to the risk of developing cancer or dementia.

There are growing concerns that fizzy drinks and sweet juices could be more dangerous for health than previously thought.

Professor Barry Popkin of the University of North Carolina told the Sunday Times: 'If there is any item in our food supply that acts like tobacco, it is sugared drinks.'

Professor Nick Wareham, who led the Imperial team, told the newspaper: 'Labels on sugar-sweetened beverages should be explicit about how much sugar they contain and should say that we should limit consumption as part of a healthy diet.'

Previously, American scientist Robert Lustig called for sweetened drinks and food to be regulated in the same way as tobacco. Dr Lustig, a University of California academic, led a team of scientists for the paper The Toxic Truth About Sugar.  'This is a war and you didn't even know you were fighting it,' he told a nutrition conference last month.

The Imperial study of almost 30,000 people living in eight European countries, including Britain, follows US research which made near-identical findings.  Scientists wanted to determine whether the link held good in Europe, where soft drinks are less popular than in America.

Professor Wareham, of the Medical Research Council’s epidemiology unit, said it was more evidence that people should be cautious about the amount of sugary soft drink they consumed.

He said: ‘This finding adds to growing global literature suggesting that there is a link between consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, obesity and risk of development of type 2 diabetes.  ‘This observation suggests that consumption of these beverages should be limited as part of an overall healthy diet.’

Researchers found that the risk of type 2 diabetes rose 22 per cent for people having one 12oz (336ml) serving of sugar-sweetened soft drink a day compared with those not having any.

The number of Britons diagnosed with diabetes hit three million this year for the first time – almost one in 20 of the population.

Type 2 diabetes is strongly linked to lifestyle factors such as being overweight or obese, leading a sedentary lifestyle and an unhealthy diet.

It occurs when the body gradually loses the ability to process blood sugar, leading to high levels which can damage body organs and result in years of ill-health.

The latest study used data on consumption of juices and nectars, sugar-sweetened soft drinks and artificially sweetened soft drinks.  It involved 12,403 people with type 2 diabetes and 16,154 without diabetes.

The researchers, led by Dr Dora Romaguera, said a possible reason for the link could be the effect of sugar-sweetened drinks on insulin resistance.

Type 2 diabetes is frequently preceded by an increase in insulin resistance, where the body becomes insensitive to the effects of insulin resulting in high blood sugar levels.  Dr Romaguera said: ‘Given the increase in sweet beverage consumption in Europe, clear messages on the unhealthy effect of these drinks should be given to the population.’

Consumption of pure fruit juice and nectar drinks was not implicated in rising diabetes, although the study could not separate out the effect of 100 per cent pure juices from those with added sugars.

Dr Matthew Hobbs, of Diabetes UK, said: ‘The large number of people involved in this study means this finding is extremely unlikely to have happened by chance.’

Gavin Partington, of the British Soft Drinks Association, said: ‘It is well known that diabetes is the result of many different factors, including obesity and family history.  ‘Soft drinks are safe to consume but, like all other food and drink, should be consumed in moderation.’

The study was published in Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes.


The Myth of Michelle Obama's "Food Desert"

This is an old idea long since discredited but both Mr and Mrs Obama specialize in such ideas

Science is a wonderful tool for understanding how our world really works. But if the science supporting a given understanding is flawed, or worse, if it is slanted in favor of a politically-favored outcome, it can become the justification for excessively wasteful activities. When science crosses that line, it is transformed from something that is worthy of respect into junk science.

This is the story of Michelle Obama and her fight against the food deserts of America. The story begins on 24 February 2010, when the First Lady of the United States of America used her White House platform to introduce the little-understood concept of the newly-discovered "food deserts" of America to Americans as part of a media blitz:
    "As part of Lets Move!, the campaign to end childhood obesity, First Lady Michelle Obama is taking on food deserts. These are nutritional wastelands that exist across America in both urban and rural communities where parents and children simply do not have access to a supermarket. Some 23.5 million Americans – including 6.5 million children – currently live in food deserts. Watch the video below and learn what the First Lady is doing to help families in these areas across the country."
Food deserts sound horrible. Isn't it good that the First Lady is doing something about this awful problem that would appear to be plaguing America's most poor, yet obese citizens, who suffer because they are deprived from having large supermarkets stocked with nutritious foods within walking distance of where they live?

Or is the First Lady relying upon junk science to justify the wasteful expenditure of taxpayer money to benefit her and the President's political cronies? After all, there was already plenty of evidence back in 2010 that indicated that food deserts were more a junk science-fueled political talking point than a real factor that significantly contributed to making poor Americans obese, as the original 2006 study proclaiming the crisis in President Obama's home base of Chicago was funded by LaSalle Bank of Chicago, then the largest business lender in the city, who would directly profit from investments to "remedy" the situation.

Fortunately, respectable science can help provide the answers to these questions. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control very recently published a peer-reviewed scientific study of the impact that a lack of nearby access to nutritious foods, such as might be found in one of the First Lady's food deserts, actually has upon the Body Mass Index (BMI) of the Americans who live within such regions. Here are the results and conclusion for their study of 97,678 adults in the state of California (home to 1 out of every 8 Americans):

Food outlets within walking distance (≤1.0 mile) were not strongly associated with dietary intake, BMI, or probabilities of a BMI of 25.0 or more or a BMI of 30.0 or more. We found significant associations between fast-food outlets and dietary intake and between supermarkets and BMI and probabilities of a BMI of 25.0 or more and a BMI of 30.0 or more for food environments beyond walking distance (>1.0 mile).


We found no strong evidence that food outlets near homes are associated with dietary intake or BMI. We replicated some associations reported previously but only for areas that are larger than what typically is considered a neighborhood. A likely reason for the null finding is that shopping patterns are weakly related, if at all, to neighborhoods in the United States because of access to motorized transportation."

Economist Jacob Geller reviewed the study's statistical results:
    "If you look at the statistical tables, they’re pretty striking. Even where there is statistical significance — which is the exception to the rule — the size of the effect is so tiny, it’s like practically nothing. For example, on the margin, adding one full-service supermarket within a one-mile radius of your house is associated with an average BMI decrease in your neighborhood of .115. That is a difference of just one pound. (see back-of-the-envelope calculations here)

    So there is really no relationship, according to this one recent study of nearly 100,000 Californians, between the distance between your body and a full-service supermarket (or any other kind of food store), and whether or not you are obese. Distance, which is a proxy for access (the idea of a food desert is that the nearest supermarket, which has fresh produce, is distant), is for all practical purposes a non-factor."

Did we mention large and/or politically well-connected retailers are involved? That's actually how we know that the whole food desert publicity campaign is really about crony capitalism more than it is about dealing with the health problems of obesity. Because in truth, if it were a real problem that could be fixed by opening new store locations, it would be a lot easier, cheaper and faster for small "Mom and Pop"-style grocery businesses to fit themselves into the already existing and available retail spaces within such deprived communities as the supposed food deserts of America.

But since the whole food desert concept would seem to be based on junk science rather than the more respectable kind, it is perhaps too much to ask for the solutions advanced by the politicians taking charge of the crisis to solve a legitimate problem.


Monday, April 29, 2013

Two cups of coffee a day HALVES the risk of breast cancer returning by boosting the effect of medication (?)

The research description below is very poor and the decription here is not much better, so it is hard to make anything of the report, but it appears to be a correlational study of some sort and hence no basis for causal inferences.  Why some Swedes do NOT drink coffee would need to be established. I understand that Swedes in general are very heavy coffee drinkers

Combined with the anti-cancer drug tamoxifen, coffee could halve the rate of recurrence of breast cancer, scientists have discovered.

Researchers at Lund University in Sweden believe that coffee actually boosts the effect of the drug.

They looked at 600 breast cancer patients from southern Sweden over a five year period.  About 300 of them took tamoxifen - a drug commonly prescribed after breast cancer surgery.

Many breast cancers rely on the female sex hormone oestrogen to grow.

Hormone-positive breast cancer cells have proteins which oestrogen attaches too.  When it comes into contact with these proteins it fits into them and stimulates the cancer cells to divide so that the tumour grows.  Tamoxifen works by fitting into the oestrogen receptors and blocking the hormone from reaching the cancer cells.

This means the tumour either grows more slowly or stops growing altogether.

Maria Simonsson, a doctoral student in Oncology at Lund University said: ‘Patients who took the pill, along with two or more cups of coffee daily, reported less than half the rate of cancer recurrence, compared with their non-coffee drinking, tamoxifen-taking counterparts.

‘How coffee interacts with the treatment, however, isn't immediately known.  ‘One theory we are working with is that coffee “activates” tamoxifen and makes it more efficient.’

The Lund University researchers have previously linked coffee consumption to a decreased risk of developing certain types of breast cancer.

Caffeine has also been shown to hamper the growth of cancer cells. The latest observational study involving coffee's role in cancer prevention and treatment underlines the need for more research, according to the team.

Helena Jernstrom, Associate Professor of Experimental Oncology at Lund University added: ‘We would like to know more about how lifestyle can interact with breast cancer treatment.’

This is not the first study to link coffee consumption with improved cancer prognosis.  Scientists at Harvard Medical School have found that women who drink three or more cups of coffee a day have a 20 per cent lower risk of developing the most common form of skin cancer compared to those who had less than one cup per month.

They also found that men who drank the same amount saw a nine per cent lower risk of the skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma.


Could GUT bacteria be responsible for thousands of heart attacks each year?

Interesting but with no obvious applications.  Taking antibiotics all the time would just develop resistance

Gut bacteria may be responsible for thousands of heart attacks - particularly in people who have no obvious risk factors for heart disease, such as high cholesterol.

Scientists have discovered that certain gut flora turn a nutrient found in egg yolks, liver, beef, pork, pork and wheatgerm into the compound Trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO).  TMAO makes blood cholesterol build up on artery walls, causing hardening of the arteries.

If this buildup breaks away and blocks an artery, it usually results in a stroke or heart attack.

The new study built on a 2011 research on lab mice.

Carried out by the Cleveland Clinic's Lerner Research Institute, scientists asked 40 healthy adults to eat two hard-boiled eggs, which are rich in a fatty substance called lecithin.

After eating the eggs, the blood levels of TMAO became raised.

But if participants took antibiotics - which kill bacteria in the gut - before eating the eggs, their TMAO levels were suppressed, the researchers found.

'This showed that intestinal bacteria are essential for forming TMAO,' Dr. Stanley Hazen, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic, told Reuters.

Next, to see whether TMAO predicts cardiovascular events, the researchers measured its levels in 4,007 heart patients.

After taking age and a past heart attacks into account, they found that high levels of TMAO were predictive of heart attack, stroke and death over the three years that the patients were followed.

Participants who had a heart attack, stroke or died during the study had higher than average TMAO levels than those who didn't.

In fact, those who possessed the highest TMAO levels had more than twice the risk of a heart attack or stroke compared to people in the bottom quartile.

And even people with high TMAO levels and no cardiovascular risk factors were 1.8 times more likely to experience a cardiovascular event than those with low levels.

The findings suggest TMAO could serve as a marker for predicting heart disease although more studies are required to confirm the link, said the paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

If the findings are confirmed, it is hoped that researchers will be able to develop a drug that blocks the production of TMAO.

Earlier this month, the same researchers published a study that found a link between consumption of a chemical called carnitine, which is found in red meat, and a risk of heart disease.

Carnitine is also converted by bacteria to TMAO.

The study joins a growing list of findings that link microbes in the gut, nose and genital tract, and on the skin to health and disease.

Research has shown that certain species of gut bacteria protect against asthma while others affect the risk of obesity.

Last week scientists reported that circumcision alters bacteria in the penis, and that this helps protect men from sexually transmitted disease.


Sunday, April 28, 2013

Australian research suggests that tea is good for blood pressure

It is hard to reconcile the claims in the article below with Prof. Hodgson's actual research findings, as published in 2013.  The first article of the year here showed no difference in day/night variability in BP but the second article, later on in the year here found that blood pressure was slightly less changeable at night among tea drinkers.  It looks like Prof. Hodgson squeezed his data until he got what he wanted. The data underlying the two contradictory articles  appear to be the same!

Furthermore a 2012 article, also by Prof. Hodgson, here showed a long-term difference between tea drinkers and controls of between 2 and 3 mmHg.  Totally trivial, in other words, close to the error of measurement.

The claims below are BS, to put it plainly.  Prof. Hodgson could throw away his teapot with no adverse consequences for his health

You might have thought you were simply satisfying a thirst in that most British of ways.  But drinking three cups of tea a day may also stabilise your blood pressure, researchers say.  It not only reduces blood pressure, but also minimises the variability of readings taken at night.

Experts say the benefits of tea are largely due to the flavonoid content - antioxidant ingredients that counteract cardio-vascular disease.

Every day there are 350 preventable strokes or heart attacks in the UK due to high blood pressure.  It has long been known that high blood pressure can significantly increase the risk of heart disease.

Now wide variations in blood pressure are also recognised as an important risk factor compared with readings that show little difference over a 24-hour period.

Professor Jonathan Hodgson of the University of Western Australia said: `There is already mounting evidence that tea is good for your heart health, but this is an important discovery because it demonstrates a link between tea and a major risk factor for heart disease.

`We have shown, for the first time to our knowledge, that the consumption of black tea can lower rates of blood pressure variation at night time.'

A survey last week found tea is still the nation's favourite drink, with Britons consuming 166 million cups of tea every day.

A high blood pressure reading is one that exceeds 140/90 millimetres of mercury (mm Hg).

The first figure, the systolic pressure, corresponds to the `surge' that occurs with each heartbeat.

In the latest study 111 men and women consumed three cups of black tea daily or a flavonoid free, caffeine containing beverage for six months.They had systolic blood pressure between 115 and 150 mm Hg.

The rate of blood pressure variation was assessed at three time points, on day one and at three and six months.

At these three time points, black tea consumption resulted in 10 per cent lower rates of blood pressure variability at night time than the flavonoid free drink.

These effects were seen immediately on the first day of tea drinking and maintained over the six months.

The study team believe coffee boosts the effects of the drug.

As the caffeine content of the two beverages was the same, the improvement in blood pressure variability would appear to be the result of a black tea component other than caffeine, says a report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

This is likely to be the flavonoid content, say the researchers, whose previous work found drinking three cups of tea daily led to a cut in blood pressure of between two and three mm HG.

Although black tea was drunk in the study, other research suggests adding milk does not affect the benefits.

Dr Tim Bond, from the industry-backed Tea Advisory Panel, said `High blood pressure is a well-recognised risk factor for cardiovascular and total mortality. Traditionally the level of blood pressure has been equated with risk but the variability of blood pressure is now also thought to contribute to risk.

`Black tea and its constituent flavonoids are increasingly associated with improvement in blood pressure and cardiovascular health. The regular consumption of black tea has been shown to lower blood pressure.

`With its flavonoids, black tea packs a powerful punch with many health benefits particularly for the heart and recent studies show the flavonoids work their magic whether or not we choose to add milk. Drinking four or more cups of black tea each day is quite simply very good for us.'


Is There Room at the Table For an Organic Food Eating Skeptic?

Keith Kloor still likes his organics even though he knows that they are not good for the environment

I'm your stereotypically disconnected urban food consumer who nonetheless cares about the environment and how my food is produced. That's why if you opened my refrigerator door, you would see organic milk, eggs, yogurt, cheese, salad greens, fruit, vegetables. I'm so brainwashed that I've even taken to buying organic bananas, because they look so fetchingly yellow. To be extra sure that we're not poisoning our kids with pesticide residue, my wife and I use all "all-natural, lemon scented" fruit and vegetable wash to detox our organic grapes and apples. (I know, what happened to good old fashioned tap water?) Even our frozen pizza is organic. (No GMOs, either, the package boasts.) On our bookshelves, you'd spot the works of Michael Pollan and Alice Waters, who teach us how to lead this virtuous, eco-conscious lifestyle.

Some readers are by now gasping at the hypocrisy of their hippy punching, sacred cow busting blogger, he who lambasts the nature-worshipping, organic-loving, GMO-fearing denizens of the world.

I got two words for you: Cognitive dissonance.

Actually, I'm well aware of the two parallel worlds I live in-the one at home, which is a temple to eco-wholesomeness, and the one in my head (translated to this blog and other places), where I question the assumptions of that other world.

Reconciling these two worlds is hard. It's kinda like a devout Catholic becoming an atheist while still identifying, culturally speaking, as a Catholic. How does one go about living a life that promotes earth-friendly organic tenets while in possession of the knowledge that organic farming, as I have learned, is not all it's cut out to be?

This is a dilemma I've been pondering of late, prompted in large part by arguments such as this one put forward by agricultural scientist Steve Savage:

"Contrary to widespread consumer belief, organic farming is not the best way to farm from an environmental point if view. The guiding principal of organic is to rely exclusively on natural inputs.  That was decided early in the 20th century, decades before before the scientific disciplines of toxicology, environmental studies and climate science emerged to inform our understanding of how farming practices impact the environment.  As both farming and science have progressed, there are now several cutting edge agricultural practices which are good for the environment, but difficult or impossible for organic farmers to implement within the constraints of their pre-scientific rules."

Savage is no organic basher. He's also a civil, mild-mannered communicator. In an interesting exchange with one of his readers in this other post (on pesticide use and GM crops) at his blog, he writes:

"I have great respect for organic farmers because of several that I have known for decades. I actually feel that the organic movement has been hijacked by an unholy alliance of marketers and anti-business activists and that its greatest insight and contribution (understanding the positive need to build soil quality) has been subjugated so that its "brand" is now defined almost entirely by what it is not: synthetics, GMO, irradiation."

This suggests that the organic movement was once a force for good, before ideological and commercial interests took it over. Is that true? More importantly, have the merits of organic farming been overstated? Is it okay to even raise these questions while snacking on my organic carrots?


Friday, April 26, 2013

Teen mothers' higher obesity risk: Women who have first child before 19 are a third more likely to be overweight

Refreshing that some effort to control for social class was made below but without measuring IQ and income that control was very partial.  Young motherhood and obesity are both signs of lower class identity so any causal connection between young motherhood itself and later obesity is tendentious.  IQ alone could explain the relationship observed.  Dumb, fat and pregnant would seem a highly recognizable syndrome

Young mothers are often thought to be at an advantage when it comes to getting back in shape after pregnancy.  But in fact women who have babies in their teens are significantly more likely than older mothers to become obese later in life, research shows.

Those who had their first child aged 19 or younger were a third more likely to be very overweight, it found.

Significantly fewer women who gave birth in their teens were of normal weight than those who had babies later.

Lead author Dr Tammy Chang said: `For the first time, we've identified our youngest mums as a high risk group for obesity, one of the most debilitating long-term health issues we face.

`When taking care of teen mums, we often have so many immediate concerns - childcare, housing, school, social and financial support - that we don't often think of long-term health effects.'

After controlling for factors such as race, education and background, the scientists found women who gave birth before 19 had a 32 per cent higher risk of obesity than women who had given birth at age 20 or later.

The survey by the University of Michigan of US women aged between 20 and 59 is believed to be the first to identify teen pregnancy as a predictor of obesity.

Dr Chang said of her research, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology: `We need further studies to better understand the link between teen birth and obesity, so physicians and  policy-makers can provide the best care to teen mothers.

`Obesity is a prevalent, expensive health problem and it's difficult to reverse, which is why it's incredibly important to identify at-risk groups early so that we can intervene.'


Diabetes danger in just ONE sugary drink a day: Chance of developing Type 2 increases by a fifth

The usual correlational stupidity.  Working class people probably drink more pop and are also less healthy.  The pop itself likely does nothing

Drinking one can of soft drink a day can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes by a fifth, scientists warn.

A major study found the risk rose by as much as 22 per cent for every 12oz serving of sugar-sweetened drink – a typical can – consumed per day.

Soft drinks have previously been linked with weight gain and obesity – a well-known trigger for type 2 diabetes – but researchers say the effect goes beyond body weight and may be caused by an increase in insulin resistance.

The study of almost 30,000 people living in eight European countries, including Britain, follows US research which made near-identical findings. Scientists at Imperial College London wanted to determine whether the link held good in Europe, where soft drinks are less popular than in America.

Professor Nick Wareham, of the Medical Research Council’s epidemiology unit, who oversaw the study, said it was more evidence that people should be cautious about the amount of sugary soft drink they consumed.

He said: ‘This finding adds to growing global literature suggesting that there is a link between consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, obesity and risk of development of type 2 diabetes.

‘This observation suggests that consumption of these beverages should be limited as part of an overall healthy diet.’

Researchers found that the risk of type 2 diabetes rose 22 per cent for people having one 12oz (336ml) serving of sugar-sweetened soft drink a day compared with those not having any. For those having two soft drinks, it rose a further 22 per cent over those having one drink.

The number of Britons diagnosed with diabetes hit three million this year for the first time – almost one in 20 of the population.

Type 2 diabetes is strongly linked to lifestyle factors such as being overweight or obese, leading a sedentary lifestyle and an unhealthy diet.

It occurs when the body gradually loses the ability to process blood sugar, leading to high levels which can damage body organs and result in years of ill-health.

The latest study used data on consumption of juices and nectars, sugar-sweetened soft drinks and artificially sweetened soft drinks. It involved 12,403 people with type 2 diabetes and 16,154 without diabetes.

The researchers, led by Dr Dora Romaguera, said a possible reason for the link could be the effect of sugar-sweetened drinks on insulin resistance.

Type 2 diabetes is frequently preceded by an increase in insulin resistance, where the body becomes insensitive to the effects of insulin resulting in high blood sugar levels.

Dr Romaguera said: ‘Given the increase in sweet beverage consumption in Europe, clear messages on the unhealthy effect of these drinks should be given to the population.’

Consumption of pure fruit juice and nectar drinks was not implicated in rising diabetes, although the study could not separate out the effect of 100 per cent pure juices from those with added sugars.

Dr Matthew Hobbs, of Diabetes UK, said: ‘The large number of people involved in this study means this finding is extremely unlikely to have happened by chance.’

Gavin Partington, of the British Soft Drinks Association, said: ‘It is well known that diabetes is the result of many different factors, including obesity and family history.

‘Soft drinks are safe to consume but, like all other food and drink, should be consumed in moderation.’ The study was published in Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Study: Apple extract kills cancer cells, outperforms chemo

Study in laboratory glassware only

"In recent research, compounds in apples known as oligosaccharides were found to kill up to 46% of human colon cancer cells. Further, the compound outperformed common chemotherapy drugs while leaving the toxic side effects behind."

Oligosaccharide from apple induces apoptosis and cell cycle arrest in HT29 human colon cancer cells

By Li Q et al.


It is reported that apple polysaccharide can prevent colon cancer growth and impede colon cancer progression. Apple oligosaccharide was prepared by the combination of alkaline hydrolysis and enzymolysis of apple polysaccharides, and purified by anion column chromatography. The aim of this study is to explore the effect of apple oligosaccharide on the cellular viability of human colon carcinoma cells (HT29 cells) and its mechanism. The results showed that apple oligosaccharide decreased the cellular viability of HT29 cells in dose-dependent manner. Meanwhile it enhanced the expression of Bax; and decreased the levels of Bcl-2 and Bcl-xl. Apple oligosaccharide induced cell cycle arrest in S phase, which correlated with the decreased expression of Cdk 2 and cyclin B1. These results indicated that apple oligosaccharide attenuated HT29 cell viability by inducing cell apoptosis and cell cycle arrest. Apple oligosaccharide is a potential chemoprevention agent or anti-tumor agent and is worthy of further study.

Int J Biol Macromol. 2013 Mar 16

McDonald's burger bought in Utah in 1999 looks exactly the same as the day it was first flipped

This is just food bigotry.  McDonald's uses unusually effective food preservatives.  So what?  Are those preservatives bad for you?  The whole world would know of it if they were

A Utah man has unearthed a McDonald's hamburger he bought in 1999 - and the sandwich looks exactly the same as the day it was first flipped.

David Whipple kept the fast food meal for a month to show friends how the preservative-packed hamburger would keep its composure.

But he forgot about it, finding it two years later in his coat pocket and then he decided to continue the bizarre experiment.

However, even he was shocked to see that the hamburger still looks the same a whopping 14 years later.

'It wasn't on purpose,' Whipple told TV show 'The Doctors,' of his decision to keep the burger for such a long time.

'I was showing some people how enzymes work and I thought a hamburger would be a good idea. And I used it for a month and then I forgot about it.

'It ended up in a paper sack in the original sack with the receipt in my coat pocket tossed in the back of my truck and it sat there for, I don't know, two or three months.'

He said his coat ended up in the coat closet of his Logan, Utah, home.

'My wife didn't discover it until at least a year or two after that,' he said. 'And we pulled it out and said "oh my gosh. I can't believe it looks the same way."'

The burger had no signs of mold, fungus or even a strange odor, the show's hosts said. The only thing that had changed over the years was that the pickle had disintegrated.

Whipple, who still has the original receipt for the burger, said he now shows the sandwich to his grandchildren to encourage them to eat healthily.

'It's great for my grand-kids to see. To see what happens with fast food,' he said.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Vitamin E could reduce fatty liver disease

Rodent study only.  There have been reports of a reduced lifespan from use of vitamin E so leaping to conclusions here might not be wise  -- even if you've got fatty liver disease

Eating leafy greens, sunflower oils, nuts and spinach could alleviate the symptoms of liver disease, according to new research.

Scientists believe that eating foods which are high in vitamin E could reduce the symptoms of liver disease which has been brought on by obesity.

Dr Danny Manor, an associate professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Ohio, U.S., said: `The implications of our findings could have a direct impact on the lives of millions of people who are at potential risk for developing obesity-related liver disease in their lifetimes.'

Dr Manor and his team studied a group of mice that were in the advanced stage of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis.

Known as NASH for short, this is a common complication of obesity characterised by fat accumulation and inflammation in the liver.

It is most common in people who are obese, have type 2 diabetes, have high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

It is the most severe form of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and is a major cause of tissue scarring, known as cirrhosis, which leads to liver failure and may progress to liver cancer.

Vitamin E had been shown by recent studies to alleviate some symptoms of NASH in human patients, suggesting that there is a link between vitamin E levels and liver disease.

To test this hypothesis, the team studied mice which were deprived of vitamin E.

As expected, they observed increased fat deposition and other signs of liver injury in the mice.

The researchers found that when they gave the mice vitamin E supplements the majority of NASH-related symptoms could be avoided.

They say this confirms the relationship between vitamin E deficiency and liver disease.

The precise effects of vitamin E on health have previously been difficult to ascertain, although its antioxidative properties were suggested to offer some protection from a variety of well-known conditions including heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer's.

Dr Manor added: `These findings may have a significant impact on public health as the vast majority of adults do not consume the amount of vitamin E recommended by the National Institute of Medicine.'

Dr Manor said: `Simple and affordable dietary intervention may benefit people at risk of this debilitating disease.'

He said the significance of the findings is not only the possibility that they will aid those who are currently sick but that they may also `affect many people who are presently healthy, but are at risk for becoming obese or diabetic in the future'.

Dr Manor added: `Right now, we really don't understand how NASH progresses from mild liver damage to severe liver failure.

`Our results will enable us to dissect the different steps in this progression, as well as study how oxidative stress affects liver function more generally, giving possible insights into other related disorders.'


Are SOYA BEANS the key to wrinkle-free skin? Hormone in the vegetable can keep us looking youthful, say scientists

Study appears not to have been double blind.  The power of suggestion is strong.  Some research by people not associated with the supplier would also seem desirable

It has already been heralded as a natural wonder drug which stops the spread of cancer.

But now scientists have discovered that a substance found in soya beans could also be the answer to youthful, wrinkle-free skin.

Genistein, a natural plant-hormone in soya, has been found to boost the production of collagen, the protein which gives skin its strength and elasticity that depletes with age.

In clinical tests, 53 per cent of women who used genistein said their skin felt firmer and appeared younger looking within just one month.

It was so successful at reducing wrinkles that users dubbed it a `facelift in a bottle.'

Now British women are set to get their hands on the miracle serum when it goes on sale online in the UK for the first time later this month.

Formulated by Swiss cosmetic firm, Swisscode, genistein works by inhibiting the action of enzymes which reduce and degrade the production and quality of collagen and elastin - the protein which gives skin its elasticity - as the body ages.

Blocking the enzymes also stimulates the production of new collagen.

Around 2,000 women, aged between 50 and 65 took part in a clinical trial in 2011.

Photographs were taken of the `crow's feet' wrinkles around their left eye area and they were asked to apply two or three drops of genistein to the same area twice daily.

The women were photographed again after one month and, in 53 per cent of the volunteers, the results were visibly improved.

Genistein is particularly effective in women going through the menopause because it is a time when oestrogen falls, accelerating the depletion of collagen and elastin in the skin.

Experts have found that genistein molecules are structurally very similar to oestrogen and therefore act in a similar way to Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), but without the nasty side effects.

Research published last year also found that the hormone, or isoflavone, also reduces the frequency and severity of hot flushes in older women by around 26 per cent.

Wolfgang Mayer, spokesman for Swisscode said: `As we age the skin becomes thinner, looser, and less elastic. In men this is a fairly gradual process, but in women this accelerates as we age and there is a drastic change with the onset of the menopause.

`Genistein works in a similar way to oestrogen, without any of the associated hormonal side effects. It blocks enzymes which cause the depletion of existing collagen, as well as stimulating the production of new collagen.

'Women who've used the serum have seen a dramatic reduction in lines and wrinkles in just a few weeks and have been astounded by the results.'

The 15ml bottles of genistein, which cost £54, will be available in the UK via swisscode.co.uk, before potentially being launched on the high street later this year.

Celebrity make-up artist Tina Earnshaw, who has done the make-up on blockbusters such as Titanic and Spiderman, has been using genistein on her film star clients.

`It is an excellent tool to counteract the ageing process and a staple in my makeup kit,' she said.

Film stars are understandably conscious of how their face appears when magnified on the big screen, so I use genistein to prep my celebrity clients' skin before makeup and the results help me to achieve a flawless look.'

User Julie Martin, 63, added: `The genistein serum is superb. My skin is 63 years old and needs a lot of help. My skin feels so supple after application and the skin around my eyes has definitely improved. I never would want to be without it.'

Recent studies have found genistein to be an inhibitor of both breast and prostate cancer. It stops an enzyme that switches on cancer genes and also inhibits angiogenesis, the growth of new blood vessels needed to feed growing cancers.

In the laboratory it has been proven to curb the growth of all types of cancer cells, including those affecting the breast, lung, colon, prostate and skin. It also works on leukaemia.

Genistein is also thought to be useful in the fight against heart disease by preventing fatty plaque build-up in arteries.

It also deters the activity of thrombin, which promotes blood clotting, thus helping prevent heart attacks and strokes.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Gardening reduces obesity risk

Or is it mainly fitter people who take up gardening?  Fat people often have difficulty bending over and getting up.  Not too good for weeding

Pottering around in an allotment could cut the risk of obesity, according to a study which found that gardeners weigh about a stone less than their neighbours on average.

As well as providing a form of regular exercise, gardening could encourage people to eat more healthily if they grow their own vegetables, researchers said.

It could also provide an important social benefit for those who share an allotment with others, for example by introducing them to like-minded people with similarly healthy lifestyles.

Researchers from the University of Utah studied a group of 198 gardeners who shared community gardens – an American system similar to allotments – in Salt Lake City.

They compared the gardeners' body mass index (BMI), calculated as someone's weight divided by the square of their height, against their neighbours to determine if their hobby made them healthier.

On average, female community gardeners on average had a BMI which was 1.84 lower than their neighbours, which translates to an 11lb weight loss for a woman measuring 5ft 5in tall.

For male gardeners, BMI scores were 2.36 lower on average – a difference of 16lb in weight for a 5ft 10in man, according to the study published in the American Journal of Public Health.

Female gardeners were also 46 per cent less likely to be overweight or obese than their neighbours. The figure for male gardeners was 62 per cent.

Gardeners were also more likely to have a healthier figure than their siblings, but not their husbands and wives – suggesting that spouses may also benefit from helping out on the allotment and eating the fruits of their labour.

Prof Cathleen Zick, who led the study, said: "This initial study validates the idea that community gardens are a valuable neighbourhood asset that can promote healthier living.

"That could be of interest to urban planners, public health officials and others focused on designing new neighbourhoods and revitalising old ones."


Popular Chinese medicine used for migraines could be FATAL, warn health watchdogs

A herbal medicine used by alternative practitioners to treat migraines could be fatal.  Zheng Tian Wan is unregulated but is available in the UK, and it has been linked to serious health complications and death, health authorities say.

The plant remedy contains aconite – a herb once dubbed the ‘Queen of Poisons’ by the ancient Greeks - and could be toxic for the heart and nervous system.

The ingredient is on a UK list of restricted herbal ingredients and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) have issued a statement warning against using the product.

The MHRA said the issue came to their attention after a herbal practitioner supplied a patient the unlicensed migraine pills, which have not been tested for safety and quality.

The agency said it has previously received three reports of suspected side effects to aconite.

One patient suffered kidney problems, a second was hospitalised after suffering dizziness and paraesthesia (pins and needles) and the third experienced palpitations, aches and pains with shortness of breath but recovered after stopping taking the product.

Andrea Farmer, Herbal policy manager at the MHRA, said in certain circumstances herbal medicines could be extremely dangerous: ‘Herbal medicines can have a very significant effect on the body.

'In certain circumstances, such as when aconite is taken orally, they can be extremely dangerous.

'Natural does not mean safe. To help you choose a herbal medicine that is suitable for you, look for a product that has a Traditional Herbal Registration or product license number on the packaging. These products have met the acceptable quality and safety standards.

'And if you think you have suffered a side effect to an herbal medicine, please tell us about it through our Yellow Card Scheme.'

Websites selling Zheng Tian Wan advertise it as a ‘formula with a thousand year history that stops headache and migraine’.

However, MHRA guidelines dictate that aconite should not be used in unlicensed products for oral use and herbal practitioners in the UK are only allowed use aconite externally on unbroken skin.

Products intended for oral use containing aconite are not permitted in the UK without authorisation, while only qualified doctors can prescribe aconite's use in oral medicines, under the prescription-only medicine scheme.

An MHRA spokesman said: 'It's difficult to say how much is out there, because it's a traditional Chinese medicine, so it's not something we regulate.

‘It is also difficult to tell what the levels are in a product without testing it but the fact is, aconite is a particularly toxic product so regardless of the levels we would advice people not to take it.

‘If it was sold online we could have it taken down to have it removed from sale but we do not know where every traditional Chinese practitioner is working.’

They urge anyone who has taken Zheng Tian Wan, which is made by the Shenzhen 999 Chinese Medicine Investment Development Co, or any other aconite-containing product, to speak to their GP or healthcare professionals as soon as possible.


Monday, April 22, 2013

Hard graft leads to heart attacks, research finds

There's a mix of two studies reported below.  The Greek study is pretty obviously  just another instance of poorer people having worse health.

The Belgium/Denmark study is reasonably interpreted in the final sentence below and is a warning that exercise is not always beneficial

Those working in physically demanding jobs are more susceptible to heart disease than their desk-bound counterparts, according to new research.

The study in Greece found that those who did a day's work involving physical exertion were at least 20 per cent more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease than those in an office.

A second study from Belgium and Denmark suggested that out-of-work exercise, such as in a gym, improved the coronary health of office workers but had a detrimental effect on those who already carried out manual labour as part of their job.

Men whose jobs involved strenuous physical work were four times more likely to have coronary heart disease when they also exercised in their leisure time, researchers reported.

Dr Demosthenes Panagiotakos, who led the Greek study, said the surprising results might be attributed to the extra stress experienced by people in physically demanding jobs.

However, he also said people in manual roles were more likely to be lower paid - which is linked to poorer health, with more unhealthy food and less access to healthcare.

Dr Els Clays, who led the Belgian and Danish study, added: "From a public health perspective it is very important to know whether people with physically demanding jobs should be advised to engage in leisure time activity.

"The results of this study suggest that additional physical activity during leisure time in those who are already physically exhausted from their daily occupation does not induce a 'training' effect but rather an overloading effect on the cardiovascular system."


Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) Champions Shoddy Journalism on Endocrine Active Chemicals

As Jon Entine of the Genetic Literacy Project reports, the NRDC is not exactly known for scientific nuance. So, there was little surprise when blogger Mae Wu took to the cyberwaves recently to plug an NBC Dateline story promoting the alleged dangers of “endocrine disrupting” chemicals.

According to Wu, we should all be shocked—yes shocked—that an NBC producer and her family found trace chemicals in their urine—microscopic amounts of BPA, triclosan and phthalates—all of which are approved and not harmful as commonly used, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

But that didn’t stop NBC and Wu from hyping what amounted to chemophobia. The scare tactic in this case was insinuating that the presence of common chemicals in our urine is dangerous. Journalists who do not understand risk analysis make this mistake all the time—ignorantly more than likely by NBC, as the reporter had no background in toxicology or science in general, but cynically by NRDC, whose unstated mission it seems is to scare people about chemicals.

What NBC and Wu never disclosed is that the presence of chemicals in our urine is neither unusual nor, in almost all cases, anything to be remotely concerned about. Miniscule traces of substances found in our urine can sometimes be meaningful but it’s usually just data noise—an artifact of high tech ultra sensitive biomonitoring devices; the dose and exposure time, not the presence of a chemical, determines its toxicity.

NBC found tiny amounts of BPA, a chemical investigated and approved numerous times by the Environmental Protection Agency—most recently one year ago in a direct rebuke of an NRDC suit. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has previously found traces of BPA in the urine of more than 90% of adults and children. That sounds frightening but not to a scientist. How scientists and journalists frame this often-stated fact is a good barometer of their understanding of toxicological risk—whether they genuinely wrestle with complex science or are mouthpieces, intentionally or not, for a predetermined, chemophobic perspective

Yes, we encounter BPA, phthalates and dozens of other common chemicals every day; and yes, they show up in our urine. It’s estimated that more than 160 chemicals can be detected in human urine, many of which are potentially dangerous if consumed at high enough doses over a long enough period of time. However, our liver regularly detoxifies chemicals from the environment and food, which is why we don’t keel over from drinking coffee, which has dozens of “killer” chemicals.

The CDC has repeatedly stated that while biomonitoring “can … help scientists plan and conduct research on exposure and health effects,” the presence of a chemical—whether BPA, triclosan, a phthalate or some other substance targeted by advocacy groups—does not mean that it’s harmful … or cause(s) an adverse health effect,” the CDC has written.

In the case of BPA, the FDA, reflecting the emerging scientific consensus that there is far more smoke than fire on the issue of so-called endocrine disruption, concluded, “[O]ral BPA administration results in rapid metabolism of BPA to an inactive [and therefore harmless] form.” The same mechanism is in place to detoxify many other so-called endocrine disrupting chemicals. The same is true for phthalates and triclosan, the other chemicals demonized by both NBC and the NRDC.

Phthalates in the crosshairs

Wu makes hash of the genuine scientific knowledge about all three chemicals. To dissect her shoddy reporting, I’ll just focus on one—the class called phthalates. Phthalates are plasticizers used to increase the flexibility and durability of a product. There are dozens of different types, but nine major ones used in thousands of consumer and industrial applications including, cosmetics, cables, flooring, medical devices and children’s vinyl backpacks and toys. NRDC’s website lumps them all together indiscriminately:

Phthalates are known to interfere with the production of male reproductive hormones in animals and likely to have similar effects in humans. Their effects in animal studies are well recognized and include lower testosterone levels, decreased sperm counts and lower sperm quality. Exposure to phthalates during development can also cause malformations of the male reproductive tract and testicular cancer. Young children and developing fetuses are most at risk.

A review of the evidence suggests that NRDC is far off the mark when it casually writes that phthalates are “likely to have similar effects in humans.” No study—not one—has shown that. Few chemicals on the market today have undergone as much scientific scrutiny as phthalate esters. Activists and industry groups pitted against each other in the debate have no shortage of studies they can invoke as ammunition. But one thing is clear: almost all of the evidence cited by anti-chemical campaigners is based on research linking phthalates to reproductive problems in rodents exposed to dose levels far higher than any human might face.

The NRDC’s misstatements about phthalates are compounded by the fact that, like many activist organizations, it willfully confuses different types of the chemical. Scientists draw distinctions between so-called low molecular weight ones—DEHP, BBP, DBP and DIBP— and high weight ones such as such as DINP, DIDP and DPHP. The low weight phthalates are slightly more volatile and can release minute amounts of off gasses—though not at toxic levels. As in the case of BPA, science bodies around the world have found low phthalates taken into the body are safely metabolized. Nonetheless, some regulatory bodies have voted in precautionary bans based entirely on rodent studies.

The long-term regulatory fate of the high phthalates is less sure. The chemical is ubiquitous, used in PVC/vinyl products as well as in hoses, shoe soles, sealings and many industrial processes. From a chemical perspective, high-weight phthalates are tightly bound, more stable and more resilient than low phthalates. They’ve been found safe time and again. Under the eye of activist groups and required by order of Congress, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CSPC) research organization known as the Chronic Hazard Advisory Panel or CHAP is expected to issue an updated scientific review soon. Pending the results of the CHAP review, there now exists a temporary ban on any child-care article that contains more than 0.1 percent of DINP, DIDP or DNOP.

It’s purely precautionary and unwarranted based on the death of evidence. The CDC offers a comprehensive list of links to a slew of scientific research on the chemical—none of which point to any serious human consequences. There is no cumulative buildup and the chemical is metabolized quickly by the body and excreted, noted Antonia M. Calafat of the CDC. “There is no consensus at present whether the phthalates are causing adverse health effects in humans,” added.

Two state of the art reports involving monitoring humans make hash of the NRDC’s fear mongering. A comprehensive study conducted in 2004 by the Children’s National Medical Center and the George Washington University School of Medicine showed no adverse effects in organ or sexual functioning in adolescent children exposed to phthalates as neonates. The same team evaluated infants in a 2010 study and reconfirmed the negative findings. Another more recent study has shown that even high levels of phthalates showed no effect on the genital development of marmosets, let alone humans—activist claims to the contrary.

More HERE  (See the original for links)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The old acrylamide scare never seems to go away

It was big in California eight years ago so I suppose it was due to hit Britain about now.  Debunked here

Raised levels of a chemical linked to cancer have been found in a range of foods from KFC meals to breakfast cereals.  Food watchdogs identified the increased quantities of acrylamide in 14 popular products.

The chemical is formed when foods are roasted, toasted or fried at very high temperatures.

Scientists say it is potentially carcinogenic if consumed regularly over a lifetime.

The Food Standards Agency tested 300 products to understand the scale of the problem.

The largest amount was found in crisps, including a number of expensive brands such as Burts Sea Salted crisps.

There were also raised levels in Tesco ready salted crisps, Tayto cheese and onion crisps, Seabrook Sea Salted crisps, Pipers Anglesey sea salt crisps and the Co-op’s Sea Salt and Chardonnay crisps.

Manufacturers suggested the problem was caused by last year’s bad weather which changed sugar levels in potatoes, which in turn created more acrylamide.

In terms of take-out food, raised levels were found in a sample of KFC fries bought at a restaurant in Congleton, Cheshire, and a fish and chip shop in the town.

Breakfast cereals containing bran, which is cooked at a particularly high temperature, also contained more acrylamide.

Raised levels were found in Tesco bran flakes, Sainsbury’s wholegrain bran flakes, the Co-op’s wheat bran flakes and puffed wheat sold by the Good Grain Company.

Higher than expected levels were also found in Fox’s Ginger biscuits and TUC biscuits.

The FSA stresses it does not consider the levels of the chemical found to be dangerous, however it is keen that they are brought down as a precautionary measure.

A spokesman said: ‘We will work with the relevant local authority to encourage food manufacturers to review their acrylamide reduction strategies.’

The watchdog said there is no need for the public to give up the foods named in its survey, however it gave advice on how people can reduce exposure.

This includes cooking chips only to a light golden colour while advising that ‘bread should be toasted to the lightest colour acceptable’.

It said manufacturers’ instructions for frying or oven-heating foods, such as chips, should be  followed carefully.

KFC said it has contacted all of its outlets to ensure cooking methods are designed to guarantee low acrylamide levels.  It added: ‘We believe that this  was a one–off anomalous result as the levels in every other test carried out on KFC fries were significantly lower.’

Burt’s said the wet weather had changed the character of potatoes to create higher levels of the unwanted chemical.

As a result, it is switching to new varieties that should reduce the level and is improving its  sorting process to remove overcooked crisps.

Tesco said: ‘Food safety is incredibly important to us, and we are working closely with our suppliers to ensure all acrylamide levels are below the recommended indicative value.’


Let British farms grow GM food, says PM's personal scientific adviser: Top adviser backs calls to relax rules on crops

Calls to relax the rules on GM crops were backed yesterday by the nation’s chief scientist.  Sir Mark Walport said the rise of genetically modified food was ‘inexorable’ and there was a ‘strong case’ for it to be grown in Britain.

So far biotech firms have been deterred from growing GM crops in Europe by the tightest controls in the world.

But controversially Sir Mark, who is David Cameron’s personal scientific adviser, said the food was proving its worth and production is increasing globally.

‘It is inexorably rising up the agenda again because as a technology it is showing its value more and more, obviously in terms of the crops that are able to feed the world,’ he added.

‘The job of a scientific adviser is to set out the scientific case and that scientific case is becoming stronger and stronger.’

But Peter Riley, of campaign group GM Freeze, said: ‘The public remains extremely sceptical about the safety of GM foods and the benefits that are said to come from them.

Politicians and scientific leaders need to look at other food options that do not come with such a large risk.

‘The push for GM is being orchestrated by large industry rather than in the interest of the consumer or public health.’

Sir Mark said it was his ‘job to advise on the science and it is then the politician’s job to decide how to use that ... The final decision is a political decision’.

His comments – in his first public speech in the job – are the latest indication that the GM lobby is rapidly gaining influence after years of public hostility.

Earlier this month, four major supermarkets ended bans on farm suppliers giving GM feed to animals producing meat, milk and eggs.

The vast majority of those foods sold in Britain will now come from animals raised on a GM diet.

However, a survey by the Food Standards Agency last year found two in three people believe food from animals given a GM diet should be described as such.

And a British Science Association study showed public support for so-called Frankenstein Foods declining from 46 per cent in 2002 to just 27 per cent now.

Campaign groups have also raised concerns over ministers’ secret meetings with GM lobby groups – details of which emerged only following freedom of information requests.

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson last year came out as keen proponent of GM crops, dismissing consumer fears as ‘humbug’.

And, days ago, scientists called on ministers to back technology which could produce genetically modified salmon, pigs and cattle.

Speaking after his address to the University of Cambridge’s centre for science and policy’s annual conference, Sir Mark said GM crops could provide important potential benefits for food production.

He added: ‘For every genetic modification you have to ask what plant, what gene and for what purpose. The case will be strong for some and not strong for others. Each case has be decided on its merits.’

Asked for examples of crops that would benefit British farming, Sir Mark said: ‘If it were possible for instance to develop a blight-resistant potato, then that would be a valuable thing to do.’

He also said that ‘golden rice’ –genetically modified rice that contains higher levels of vitamin A to reduce blindness and other diseases in the developing world – had ‘been around for some time’.

Biotech firms such as Monsanto have ensured that 80 per cent of the soya grown in the US and Brazil is GM.

It is one of the reasons why British supermarkets have now been forced to allow GM-fed produce into the food chain.

The first GM meat and fish could also go on sale this summer. Authorities in the US are expected to grant approval to Aquabounty salmon, which has been modified to grow twice as fast as normal.


Friday, April 19, 2013

Mothers-to-be 'can safely enjoy two drinks a week without harming their baby' (and their child may be better behaved than if they abstained)

This is not exactly conclusive data but it suggests that any adverse effect is very small

Pregnant women who enjoy a couple of glasses of wine each week will not harm their baby’s development, claim researchers.

And their study suggests that such mothers-to-be may eventually find that their child is better behaved than if they had abstained from alcohol.

British researchers claim the latest findings should make mothers feel more relaxed about the occasional tipple.

Although official guidance says alcohol is best avoided in pregnancy, previous research shows light drinking does not adversely affect toddler development. The new study of almost 11,000 mothers confirms this finding also holds good for primary-age schoolchildren.

Women can safely drink a 175ml glass of wine, a 50ml glass of spirits or just under a pint of beer each week without damaging their child’s intellectual or behavioural development, the study found.

A team at University College London questioned mothers when their babies were nine months old about their drinking during pregnancy and other aspects of their health and wellbeing.

Visits were also made to the families when the children were seven, says a report in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

Tests were carried out to assess their development in maths, reading and spatial skills, and questions were asked about their social and emotional behaviour.

The results showed boys and girls born to mothers who had one or two units of alcohol per week scored slightly higher on some tests than those born to non-drinkers.

They were also likely to have lower scores for behavioural problems than children of mothers who abstained, although adjustment for other factors diminished the differences.

Professor Yvonne Kelly, who led the research team, said: ‘There appears to be no increased risk of negative impacts of light drinking in pregnancy on behavioural or cognitive development in seven-year-old children.

‘While we have followed these children for the first seven years of their lives, further research is needed to detect whether any adverse effects of low levels of alcohol consumption in pregnancy emerge later in childhood.’

Just under 13 per cent of the mothers never drank, while almost 60 per cent chose to abstain while expecting.

Around one in four were light drinkers during pregnancy – consuming a couple of units a week – and 7 per cent drank more in pregnancy.

Heavy drinking in pregnancy is linked to foetal alcohol spectrum disorder in children, which can cause a range of physical, mental and behavioural problems.

The issue of how much is safe to drink during pregnancy has caused controversy in recent years.

In 2007, the Department of Health published guidance saying pregnant women should avoid drinking alcohol altogether, as should those who are trying to conceive. This replaced previous guidance which said it was safe for pregnant women to drink one to two units of alcohol per week. The Government said its update was not based on new research but was to provide consistent advice to all women.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence also advises women to avoid alcohol in the first three months of pregnancy to reduce the risk of miscarriage.

John Thorp, BJOG’s deputy editor-in-chief, said: ‘It remains unclear as to what level of alcohol consumption may have adverse outcomes, so this should not alter current advice.

‘If women are worried about consumption levels, the safest option would be to abstain from drinking during pregnancy.’


Old age 'is a state of mind' (?)

That is a rather exaggerated conclsion from the given data.  The sample is too small and the method too impressionistic to conclude anything, in fact

Old age is a state of mind as much as the body, according to a study which found that people who have a younger outlook are more healthy in old age.

People who consider themselves to be frail are more likely to abandon activities which can keep them healthy in old age such as taking regular exercise.

But others with a more positive attitude can remain socially active, healthy and enjoy a greater quality of life despite having equal or greater levels of physical weakness, a study found.

Researchers from Exeter University interviewed 29 people aged 66 to 98, who had varying levels of physical health and some of whom lived independently while others were in care homes.

Participants were asked about their experience of ageing and frailty to determine how their attitude could affect their health and quality of life.

Most participants, even those in the worst physical shape, maintained that they were still in good condition, with one commenting: "If people think that they are old and frail, they will act like they are old and frail".

But in the two people who did consider themselves frail, researchers identified a "cycle of decline" where their outlook had led them to withdraw from socialising and exercise – even though they were physically stronger than some other participants.

Previous studies have shown that elderly people who are physically active and have a rich social life remain healthier and happier in old age.

Krystal Warmoth, a PhD student who led the study, presented her findings at the annual conference of the British Psychological Society last week.

She said: "It is almost a self-fulfilling prophecy.

"A person's beliefs about their self could lead to a loss of interest in participating in social and physical activities, poor health, stigmatisation, and reduced quality of life.

"You are as old as you feel and your own views of yourself, or taking on this identity of being frail, is not what you should be doing," she added. "You should try and keep positive about getting older and not assume you will be frail."


Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Western diet really IS a killer: People who eat white bread, butter and red meat are most likely to die young (?)

The usual correlational rubbish.  No curiosity shown about WHO it might be who ate a "correct" diet.  People who take more care of their health generally?  Middle class people?  More educated people?  High IQ people?  All those would have better health anyway

The typical Western diet, high in fat and sugar, really does lead to an early grave, new research suggests.

A study of more than 5,000 civil servants found those who ate the most fried and sweet food, processed and red meat, white bread and butter and cream doubled their risk of premature death or ill health in old age.

It adds to evidence that 'Western style food' is the reason why heart disease claims about 94,000 lives a year in the UK - more than any other illness.

The findings published in The American Journal of Medicine are based on a survey of British adults and suggest adherence to the diet increases the risk of premature death and disability later in life.

Lead researcher, Dr Tasnime Akbaraly, of the National Institute of Health and Medical Research in France, said: 'The impact of diet on specific age-related diseases has been studied extensively, but few investigations have adopted a more holistic approach to determine the association of diet with overall health at older ages.'

She examined whether  diet, assessed in midlife, using dietary patterns and adherence to the Alternative Healthy Eating Index (AHEI), is associated with physical ageing 16 years later.

The AHEI is an index of diet quality, originally designed to provide dietary guidelines with the specific intention to combat major chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.

Dr Akbaraly added: 'We showed that following specific dietary recommendations such as the one provided by the AHEI may be useful in reducing the risk of unhealthy ageing, while avoidance of the "Western-type foods" might actually improve the possibility of achieving older ages free of chronic diseases.'

The researchers analysed data from the British Whitehall II cohort study and found following the AHEI can double the odds of reversing metabolic syndrome, a range of disorders known to cause heart disease and mortality.  They followed 3,775 men and 1,575 women from 1985-2009 with a mean age of 51 years.

Using a combination of hospital data, results of screenings conducted every five years, and registry data, investigators identified death rates and chronic diseases among participants.

At the follow up stage, just four per cent had achieved 'ideal ageing' - classed as being free of chronic conditions and having high performance in physical, mental and mental agility tests.

About 12 per cent had suffered a non-fatal cardiovascular event such as a stroke or heart attack, while almost three per cent had died from cardiovascular disease.

About three quarters were categorised as going through 'normal ageing'.

The researchers said participants who hadn't really stuck to the AHEI increased their risk of death, either from heart disease or another cause.

Those who followed a 'Western-type diet' consisting of fried and sweet food, processed food and red meat, refined grains, and high-fat dairy products, lowered their chances for ideal ageing.


Researchers look to emus for the good oil

This appears to be research in laboratory glassware only so far

Emu oil has been found to help treat a variety of common bowel diseases as well as the intestinal damage caused by cancer chemotherapy.

Research at the University of Adelaide has supported emu oil's traditional anti-inflammatory properties and has also shown it can help repair damage to the bowel.

Laboratory experiments by physiology PhD student Suzanne Abimosleh found emu oil - which is rendered from the fat of the large native birds - accelerates the repair process by stimulating growth of the intestinal crypts, the part of the intestine that produces the villi which absorb food. Longer crypts and villi mean a healthier bowel that can better absorb food.

"Disorders of the gastrointestinal tract, such as the inflammatory bowel diseases and chemotherapy-induced mucositis, are associated with malabsorption of food together with inflammation and ulceration of the bowel lining," Ms Abimosleh said. "The variable responsiveness of treatments to these diseases shows the need to broaden approaches, to reduce inflammation, prevent damage and promote healing."

Lead researcher Gordon Howarth said the next step in the use of emu oil included clinical trials, possibly with patients suffering from conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome.

"We've now done sufficient studies in the laboratory to show that emu oil has potential to help reduce the debilitating symptoms of these conditions and to enhance intestinal recovery," he said.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Beetroot juice 'helps lower blood pressure': A glass a day can reduce it by 7%, say researchers (?)

There is no warrant that the small drop in BP observed will have ANY therapeutic effect

Drinking beetroot juice every day could help to lower blood pressure, say researchers.  They found a dose of eight ounces – around one cup – may help people with high blood pressure, cutting their readings by about 7 per cent.

Tests suggest the effect is produced by beetroot’s naturally high levels of nitrate.  High concentrations of nitrate are also found in celery, cabbage and other leafy green vegetables such as spinach and some lettuce.

Eating high-nitrate foods triggers a series of chemical reactions in the blood, which can increase oxygen in areas of the body which are specifically lacking supply.

The beetroot juice used in the study contained about 0.2g of dietary nitrate, levels found in a large bowl of lettuce or two beetroots.

Amrita Ahluwalia, lead author of the study and a professor of vascular pharmacology at The Barts and The London Medical School, said: ‘We were surprised by how little nitrate was needed to see such a large effect.

‘Our hope is that increasing one’s intake of vegetables with a high dietary nitrate content, such as green leafy vegetables or beetroot, might be a lifestyle approach that one could easily employ to improve cardiovascular health.’

Beetroot juice is found in most health food shops and usually costs around £2 a bottle.

An estimated 16million people in the UK have high blood pressure, including a third who do not know they have it, and it is a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure.

Changes in lifestyle, such as cutting down salt and alcohol and taking more exercise, may control blood pressure and there are a number of drug treatments available.

A high blood pressure reading is one that exceeds 140/90 mm Hg. The first figure, the systolic pressure, corresponds to the ‘surge’ that occurs with each heart beat.

The latest study recruited eight women and seven men with systolic pressure between 140 and 159 mm Hg who were not taking blood pressure drugs.

The participants drank 250ml of beetroot juice or water containing a low amount of nitrate, and had their blood pressure monitored for 24 hours, says a report in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension.

Compared with those drinking water, people having beetroot juice cut their systolic pressure by about 10 mm Hg.

The effect was most pronounced three to six hours after drinking the juice but still present even 24 hours later.

Previous research has shown beetroot increases stamina, and can boost blood supply to vital areas of the brain.


Taste of beer makes you want more, research shows

As someone who greatly enjoys beer, I have no quarrel with the  remarks below at all

BEER drinkers have long known the amber ale tastes good, but just a sip of the stuff provokes us with the urge to get drunk, research suggests.

A study by American scientists revealed the alcohol-related flavours in beer make the brain release dopamine, a pleasure hormone, which drives people to seek out more booze.

Scientists measured changes in dopamine release in 49 men - some with a family history of alcohol abuse - all with varied drinking habits, while they tasted very small amounts of beer.  All the men tested said they wanted to keep drinking.

The researchers found the men with a history of alcohol abuse in their family released larger amounts of dopamine.

They concluded this could be the reason why these people were more likely to have an alcohol-related problem.

University of Sydney scientist Michael Bowen said the study revealed the taste of beer was enough to make people want to get intoxicated.  "It's not just the alcohol that is resulting in this dopamine release - it is the taste of it," he said.

"Potentially these people (with a family history of alcohol abuse) have a greater potential to develop an alcohol abuse disorder down the track.  "It will potentially drive you to consume greater levels of alcohol."

Mr Bowen said the reason why the researchers did not use wine or spirits in the study was because they needed to ensure the subjects were not drunk when they performed the tests.


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The much hyped resveratrol fails under test among humans

Another failure to generalize from rodents

It’s been touted as a cure-all for diabetes, dementia, heart disease and even hearing loss, but the miraculous health benefits of red wine cannot be reaped if you are obese, say researchers.

Resveratrol, the active compound found in the skins of red grapes and cocoa, is an antioxidant produced by plants to help protect them from extreme environments and block the effects of ultraviolet sunlight, infections and temperature changes.

The research, published in journal Diabetes, found that although test-tube studies had suggested that resveratrol had an effect on obesity, diabetes, high blood-pressure and blood cholesterol, it had no effect on 24 obese, but otherwise healthy men.

The study, carried out by Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark, gave 12 men high-dose supplements of the substance and 12 men a placebo for four weeks.

Over this period the participant’s insulin sensitivity, blood pressure, cholesterol, and resting energy expenditure were monitored.

Researchers found that there was an insignificant decrease in insulin sensitivity and no change in blood pressure, cholesterol and resting energy expenditure.

‘The lack of effect disagrees with [previous] data obtained and raises doubt about the justification of resveratrol as a human nutritional supplement, said the scientists.

The research contradicts previous data showing that the life of lab rodents - including old, fat, and even diabetic mice – could be extended by supplementing the diet with the chemical.

It was presumed that the chemical could work in the same way for humans.


When government cries wolf

There was some confusion a few days ago about whether certain kinds of licorice are legal in California. I had pointed out that an out-of-state firm was unwilling, because of Proposition 65, to ship its licorice to California. That does not mean that the licorice is illegal in California. It is not. But, under Proposition 65, it must be accompanied by a warning label saying that certain ingredients may cause cancer.

Presumably, the firm was not willing to add such a label. Why? Think about the rest of the U.S. market outside California, which would probably be over 85% of the market. Californians have learned to ignore Proposition 65 labels because they are white noise: they don't communicate anything about degrees of danger or probabilities. But if people in those other states see such a warning, many of them might get nervous.

There does seem to be a simple solution: add a Proposition 65 warning label only for shipments to California. Why doesn't the company do it? I don't know. It's possible that the California market is much smaller than 15% of the market and that it just isn't worth it.

The point about warnings as white noise does, though, raise a more-serious issue. Within a few miles of where I live in coastal California is Monastery Beach, where the undertow is particularly severe. Many people have drowned at the beach. I remember one time in the last 10 years when a whole visiting family drowned.

Notice the word "visiting." Almost all the people who drown there are tourists. Why is that relevant?

The locals tend to know about the undertow. Outsiders do not. On the beach for well over 15 years has been a big sign warning of the undertow. I think many tourists simply think the sign is typical government overstatement. When I went through the San Jose airport Saturday morning in a long line at TSA, we passengers were subjected to John Pistole's warning, on an infinite loop, of the dangers of terrorism. We've all seen enough to know that it's not that dangerous. So we tend to ignore government warnings. So when there really is a high-probability threat and the government warns us, we tend to dismiss that too. Government cries wolf way too often.

It's a kind of a Gresham's law of warnings: warnings about low-probability threats drown out, rather than drive out, warnings about high-probability threats.

One last example. In 1982, when I was working in the Reagan administration, my friend Harry Watson came to town and we rented two kayaks. I had never been in a kayak in my life. We tried them out on the placid C&O canal beside the Potomac River and then went to put them in the Potomac. "WARNING: DANGEROUS CANOE PUT-IN." said the sign. "Yeah, right," we thought. There goes government crying wolf again.

Wrong. Within 50 yards of having put in our kayaks, we were using all our physical energy to navigate down a very rough river. Within less than 2 minutes, I was worn out and all I had left was adrenaline. After I got to my first bit of calm, I relaxed slightly and immediately tipped over. I was heading for the next big set of rapids. Fortunately, a seasoned kayaker appeared out of nowhere, told me to hold on to the strap on his kayak, and towed me to shore. I was lucky. Those people at Monastery Beach were not.

Good information is just too important for us to allow government to drive it out with bad information.


Monday, April 15, 2013

Is austerity good for the  health of a community?

The calories restriction evidence and the Dutch famine study would tend to support that conclusion.  Less healthy people would simply have died.  So it's not evidence for anything about the surviving individuals

While an economic crisis results in untold misery for countries and their people, a new study of health in Cuba has suggested there could be a silver lining during lean times.

Researchers appear to have implied that people can lose weight during a recession due to a reduction in eating and increasing physical activity.

Their dramatic findings, published online in the British Medical Journal, were based on a study in Cuba, where the population suffered food and fuel shortages following the economic crisis of the early 1990s triggered by the collapse of the Soviet Union.

This resulted in an average of 4 to 5kg (8 to 11 lbs) being shed by the people and subsequent rapid declines in deaths from diabetes and coronary heart disease.

The scientists from the University of Alcalá, in Madrid, also discovered that when Cubans put the weight back on, cases of diabetes surged again.

The researchers concluded that the Cuban crisis could have lessons Britain.

They suggested that an average weight loss of just eleven pounds across the UK could cut deaths from heart disease by a third while the mortality rate of type 2 diabetes, the form of the condition related to obesity, could also be halved.

Whole population trends in food consumption and transport policies linked to physical activity could reduce the burden of two major illnesses, said the researchers.

“During the deepest period of the economic crisis in Cuba, from 1991 to 1995, food was scarce and access to gas was greatly reduced, virtually eliminating motorised transport and causing the industrial and agricultural sectors to shift to manual intensive labour,” said Prof Manuel Franco, who led the international team of researchers from Spain, Cuba and the United States.

"We found a population-wide loss of 4-5 kg in weight in a relatively healthy population was accompanied by diabetes mortality falling by half and mortality from coronary heart disease falling by a third.

“So far, no country or regional population has successfully reduced the distribution of body mass index or reduced the prevalence of obesity through public health campaigns or targeted treatment programmes.”

They examined the association between population-wide body changes and diabetes incidence, prevalence and death rates from type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, cancer and all causes in Cuba between 1980 and 2010.

The country has a long tradition of public health and cardiovascular research which provided the necessary data from national health surveys, cardiovascular studies, primary care chronic disease registries and vital statistics over three decades.

Four population-based cross-sectional surveys were used and data were available on height, weight, energy intake, smoking and physical activity. All participants were aged between 15 and 74.

Population-wide changes in energy intake and physical activity were accompanied by large changes in body weight.

Smoking prevalence slowly decreased during the 1980s and 1990s and declined more rapidly in the 2000s.

Diabetes prevalence surged from 1997 onwards as the population began to gain weight. New cases decreased during the weight loss period but then increased until it peaked in the weight regain years.

In 1996, five years after the start of the weight loss period, there was an abrupt downward trend in death from diabetes.

This lasted six years during which energy intake gradually recovered and physical activity levels were reduced. In 2002, death rates returned to pre-crisis trends and a dramatic increase in diabetes death was observed.

Regarding heart disease and stroke death trends there was a slow decline from 1980 to 1996 followed by a dramatic decline after the weight loss phase. These descending trends have halted during the weight regain phase.

Prof Walter Willett, of the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, who analysed the research for the journal, said it adds "powerful evidence a reduction in overweight and obesity would have major population-wide benefits".

He also said the authors are appropriately cautious in their conclusions and avoid "attributing all the changes in disease rates to changes in weight".


Today's adults 15 years 'older' than parents

So why are lifespans steadily lengthening, then?  Lifespan is the bottom line  -- not factors alleged to be related to it

Today's adults are so unhealthy they are 15 years 'older' than their parents and grandparents at the same age, researchers say.

They are more likely to suffer from high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity than previous generations because of poor health, according to a study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

Looking at 6000 adults aged 20, 30, 40, 50 over a 25 year period, researchers found younger generations had poorer 'metabolic' health - a range of issues including blood pressure and weight.

It revealed men in their 30s were 20 per cent more likely to be overweight than in previous generations, while women in their 20s are twice as likely to be obese than those 10 years ago.

Blood pressure also increased among the younger generation of both men and women, while younger blokes are more likely to have diabetes than their dads and granddads were.

Author Gerben Hulsegge from the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment said the younger generation are "15 years ahead" in terms of "metabolically" health.

He said: "The more recently born adult generations are doing far worse than their predecessors.

"For example, the prevalence of obesity in our youngest generation of men and women at the mean age of 40 is similar to that of our oldest generation at the mean age of 55.

"This means that this younger generation is '15 years ahead' of the older generation and will be exposed to their obesity for a longer time.

"This firstly highlights the need for a healthy body weight - by encouraging increased physical activity and balanced diet, particularly among the younger generations.

"The findings also mean that, because the prevalence of smoking in high-income countries is decreasing, we are likely to see a shift in non-communicable disease from smoking-related diseases such as lung cancer to obesity-related diseases such as diabetes.

"This decrease in smoking prevalence and improved quality of health care are now important driving forces behind the greater life expectancy of younger generations, and it's likely that in the near future life expectancy will continue to rise.

"But it's also possible that in the more distant future, as a result of our current trends in obesity, the rate of increase in life expectancy may well slow down, although it's difficult to speculate about that."