Monday, July 31, 2006

No evidence that diet changes fight cancer: "Two new studies have found what their authors say is scant evidence that changes in diet help cancer patients survive longer or avoid recurrences of the disease. Many cancer patients and their families see hope in foods popularly believed to help fight cancer, including nutritional supplements. And studies indicate that eating plenty of vegetables and fruits helps prevent certain cancers. While not disputing that healthy eating has major benefits, the authors of one study said such diets may have little relevance in treating cancer itself. Some nutritional supplements may even be harmful, they added. The study consisted of an analysis of 59 previous studies of specific dietary modifications. There was little relationship between diet and survival or prognosis, the authors said. The other study found that neither garlic nor vitamin supplements, both popularly thought to help fight cancer, delays the progression of pre-cancerous gastric lesions to cancer. Both studies appear in the July 19 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute."

Preggy mothers should eat up: "Babies whose mothers do not eat enough during pregnancy appear to be at risk of clogged up arteries later in life, researchers say. A study of 200 children found that, on average, the lower the mother's calorific intake during pregnancy, the thicker the child's artery walls. Clogged up arteries - atherosclerosis - can lead to heart disease and strokes. The University of Southampton team said the reasons for the apparent link were unclear and needed further exploration. Their study appears in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology.... The researchers said it did not matter what proportion of the calorie intake came from fat, protein or carbohydrate - it was the total calorie intake that was important. The association between artery thickness and calorific intake remained strong even after taking account of factors such as social class, smoking, exercise habits and sickness in pregnancy.... "Our advice to pregnant women is that a healthy balanced diet is essential to give both mother and baby the best chance of a healthier life. "A restricted or low calorie diet should not be followed during pregnancy."

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Hi tech bikini: "As the bikini turns 60, it's entering the electronic age with a new model featuring a built-in alarm to warn wearers to get out of the sun - and ease concerns that the scanty swimsuits damage the health. The American Cancer Society advises that the best way to lower the risk of skin cancer, the most common form of the disease in humans, is to avoid too much exposure to the sun and other sources of ultraviolet light. So Canadian company Solestrom has come up with a new bikini that goes on sale next month with a UV meter built into its belt and an alarm that beeps to tell wearers when to head to the shade. "There's so much concern about sun exposure and skin cancer that we saw the demand and designed something to be safe for the wearer," Solestrom spokeswoman Emily Garassa said".

Fishy answer to weight loss: "Swallowing fish oil as part of an exercise regime helps shed kilograms faster, new research shows. An Adelaide study has found that overweight people on a modest exercise plan lose more weight if they also take daily doses of tuna oil rich in Omega 3 fatty acids. The polyunsaturated fats, found in oily fish and some grains, nuts and vegetables, have cardiovascular benefits but little is known about their contribution to weight loss. The University of South Australia study involved overweight or obese people with cardiovascular problems like high blood pressure or high cholesterol. Participants did not alter their diet but took regular doses of either tuna fish oil or sunflower oil, which does not contain Omega 3. After three months of light exercise - a 45-minute walk or run three times a week - those consuming fish oil had lost an average of 2kg."

British house of honey: "When Anthony and Gwynneth Kemp noticed liquid seeping from the wall of their flat in Bristol they assumed the neighbour had left a tap on. It was only when Mr Kemp, 67, a former architect, was told by his neighbours that the leak, dripping from a lintel above a window, was not coming from their flat that he went to investigate further. After tentatively tasting it he turned to his bemused wife and told her that it was honey. Bees had built a nest in the walls and because of the hot weather the wax in the nest had started to melt. Mr Kemp said: "I went up and tasted it. I didn't know what to think because I hadn't expected it to taste sweet." David Charles, a beekeeping expert from Somerset, said: "They are probably ordinary honey bees. Because it has been so hot the bees have been able to collect lots of pollen. At certain temperatures beeswax becomes pliable and collapses and the honey has seeped out."
Australian Feds take away the "obesity" rattle of the State health ministers

John Howard has described efforts by the nation's health ministers to restrict junk-food advertising on TV as a waste of time, saying it is an issue for media authorities, not health departments. In a letter presented to a health ministers meeting in Brisbane, the Prime Minister wrote: "Given ... the fact that regulation of media advertising is an Australian government responsibility, I see little value in continued consideration of this issue in the Australian Health Ministers' Council forum."

The letter, delivered by federal Health Minister Tony Abbott, has infuriated his state counterparts, who have been campaigning for junk-food advertising restrictions for the past 12 months. "We are not going to back down to the Prime Minister's bullying," Queensland Health Minister Stephen Robertson said. "I do not believe it is open for John Howard to unilaterally dictate the ministerial health conference. "The fact that we now have a PM who is prepared to shut down debate on health is frankly unacceptable."

State and territory ministers agreed yesterday to establish a working party to review marketing and advertising practices with the industry, while looking at existing regulatory codes.

More here

Saturday, July 29, 2006

More proof that smokers tend to be dummies: "A 21-year-old man is in hospital with severe burns after lighting a cigarette while using paint thinners, sparking a fire that destroyed his Brisbane home. Police said firefighters were called just after midnight when the blaze engulfed the high-set timber house at Annie Street, Woolloongabba, in the city's inner southside. The house was gutted and a neighbouring house was also damaged in the blaze. The man had lit a cigarette while using paint thinner to clean an engine in a car being restored under the house, police said. He was taken to the Royal Brisbane Hospital with severe burns to 30 per cent of his body."
Australia: Political opportunism drives mania about incorrect food

Federal and state politicians debating a serious health concern this week could find themselves in decidedly unhealthy disagreement. Regrettably, obesity has become a political issue. The ever-present danger is that ends can be claimed to justify means, however unreasonable, unwarranted and undemocratic. Today, a group of state health ministers will seek restrictions on children's TV advertising of products judged overly high in fat, salt or sugar. The federal Health Minister, Tony Abbott, is expected to counter that it isn't a proper response to a problem of personal and parental responsibility.

Following Abbott's announcement last week of a ministerial taskforce on obesity, the health ministers' conference is attracting international attention, not so much in anticipation of a pointer to social policy as in assessing Australia's contribution to the politicisation of fat people.

Australian advertisers have lobbied against such an outcome since the earliest recognition of worrisome obesity trends. They have consistently - and persistently - sought to be part of a politically neutral response to something they see as not of their making, but as a whole-of-community problem requiring an all-of-community solution. Action to date, including new rules for advertising to children and a $10 million healthy lifestyle advertising campaign, will be extended this week with the tabling of a code of conduct for all food and beverages marketing communications. It's a big call but the advertising, marketing and media sectors want to be seen as the responsible contributors to the community they believe themselves to be.

But a minority of members of that community - within government bureaucracies as well as without - have persuaded some politicians that food and beverage manufacturers and marketers, together with their evil allies in the advertising and media sectors, are conspiring to kill off the very consumers who are their reasons for being. That the argument does not make a lot of sense has not dissuaded the deluded any more than their knowledge of Quebec, where a 25-year ban on advertising to children has resulted in no appreciable difference in obesity rates from other Canadian provinces. In fact, the children of Quebec have experienced a greater weight gain in the past decade than their provincial neighbours.

It's a fair comment that many claiming to be campaigning in the cause of childhood obesity have lost sight of the health objective, and have become focused on some sort of political victory over television commercials. In truth, there is as much research excusing advertising as a factor in obesity as there is accusing it. The response of one group of academic researchers linked to the anti-advertising lobby has been to simply assume a link, and build a case for advertising restrictions from there.

As complex as it is as a health problem, obesity may simply be an unforeseen consequence of the lifestyle change brought about by a world war that created a norm of two-income families, new drives for technological advancement and individual affluence, less need for physical activity and more demand for processed, packaged and convenience foods. But arguing whether Adolf Hitler is more or less to blame than John Logie Baird or Alexander Graham Bell will not do any more to reverse obesity trends over the next generation than considering it as a political rather than a health priority.


Friday, July 28, 2006

Breast cancer pill falls from favor: "Tamoxifen, the pill that prevents breast cancer in high-risk women, does not appear in the long run to save many lives, US researchers reported today. Women at the highest risk of breast cancer do appear to live longer if they take Tamoxifen, the researchers report in the latest issue of the journal Cancer. But for women at the low end of the high-risk group, the sometimes serious side effects of Tamoxifen outweigh the benefits, Dr Joy Melnikow of the University of California, Davis, and colleagues reported. Tamoxifen can cause blood clots and uterine cancer. "We found that for women at the lower end of the high-risk range for developing breast cancer, there is a very small likelihood that taking Tamoxifen will reduce mortality," Dr Melnikow said in a statement. Dr Melnikow and her colleagues calculated that Tamoxifen can extend life expectancy only when a woman's five-year risk of developing breast cancer is 3 per cent or higher. This is especially true for women who have not had a hysterectomy, and thus risk endometrial cancer from taking Tamoxifen".

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Fabulous news if it works: "In a world first, Melbourne scientists have developed a once-a-day pill that they claim may cure Alzheimer's disease. Human trials of the drug start next month. The drug - called PBT2 - was developed by a team from the Mental Health Research Institute of Victoria in collaboration with Melbourne-based Prana Biotechnology. "It is a major breakthrough and very much a Melbourne discovery," said Prof George Fink, the director of the Mental Health Research Institute. "Though much depends on the next phase of human clinical trials . . . early results indicate this drug offers hope to people with Alzheimer's disease," he said. The revolutionary drug stops the buildup of a protein called amyloid. Many scientists accept amyloid is a major cause of Alzheimer's as the protein is thought to cause the brain to "rust". Prof Fink said the drug could significantly prevent Alzheimer's developing or delay the on-set of the brain disease for many years. Early clinical testing has confirmed the drug is fast-acting. Levels of amyloid dropped by 60 per cent within 24 hours of a single dose. It found also that PBT2 suppresses the impairment of memory function. More human studies begin in Sweden next month and Australians will join a major international trial of the drug next year."

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Diet seesaw swings back to carbohydrates: "The most effective diet for weight loss and cardiovascular health is a high carbohydrate plan based on low glycaemic index (GI) foods, especially for women, say Australian researchers. The world's first 12-week trial of its kind compared the relative effects on weight loss and cardiovascular risk of low GI and high-protein diets. The theory behind low GI diets is that rapidly digested, high GI carbohydrates cause fluctuations in blood glucose and insulin levels, contributing to hunger and preventing the breakdown of fat. Foods with a low GI include breakfast cereals based on oats, barley and bran, wholegrain and sour dough breads and Basmati or Doongara rice. Foods with a high GI include potatoes and white bread. The study by Professor Jennie Brand-Miller and Joanna McMillan-Price of the University of Sydney Human Nutrition Unit, showed that there was no one diet to fit all solutions, although both high protein and low GI diets would help people shed fat. However, the trial did show that a diet containing low GI carbohydrate significantly reduces the risk of heart disease."

Monday, July 24, 2006

How sad. "Antioxidant" vitamins dangerous: "Expensive high-dose antioxidant supplements have no benefits but can increase blood pressure in some people, a pharmacology expert says. Professor Kevin Croft of the University of Western Australia School of Medicine and Pharmacology, said recent research showed there were no benefits from popular high-dose vitamin C and E supplements and a healthy diet would be more beneficial... Prof Croft will tell the Congress of the International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids (ISSFAL) in Cairns on Monday that large population studies over many years appeared to create a link between antioxidants in the diet with reduced risk of heart disease. As a result, the use of vitamin C and E supplements was widespread and the industry worth billions of dollars. But recent studies of higher dose supplementation showed no benefits but pointed to potential adverse effects, he said. Perth researchers who looked at people with risk factors for cardiovascular disease said some patients taking high doses of vitamin E had higher blood pressure. Prof Croft said while vitamins C and E were essential for good health, people did not need them in any higher doses than could be gained from a balanced diet."

The Merchants of Death in Christopher Buckley's novel "Thank You for Smoking" are spokesmen for the most vilified industries in Washington: alcohol, tobacco and firearms. A lobbyist for baby formula may have to join them in a sequel. Proponents of breast-feeding, emboldened by studies that trumpet human milk's superiority to its supermarket substitutes, are abandoning platitudes like "Breast Is Best" in favor of aggressive campaigns designed to portray formula feeding as not merely inferior but dangerous.

A startling television ad in a government breast-feeding campaign likened feeding an infant formula to being thrown from a mechanical bull while heavily pregnant. Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin has proposed mandatory warning labels for formula cans. Breast-feeding advocates are pushing legislation to stop hospitals from giving free formula to new mothers. A new book calls formula feeding "deviant behavior" that should occur only as an "emergency nutrition intervention to prevent starvation and death." "There's not so much talk now about the benefits of breast-feeding," says Katy Lebbing of La Leche League International, "but the risks of not breast-feeding."

Formula, its critics say, makes children sicker, fatter and dumber. Its inability to match the antibodies of breast milk is implicated in a range of maladies, including ear infections and diabetes. It is not yet the new cigarette; few suggest that formula actually kills babies, except in rare cases when powdered formula is mixed with tainted water, for example.

But formula, once seen as the perfectly engineered health food, has become the TV dinner of infant feeding: seductively easy, nutritionally challenged and oh-so-1950s. And the campaign against it has made strange cribfellows: liberals who demand accommodation in the workplace and open-shirt nursing in the public square and conservatives who believe that young children are best cared for in their homes by mothers free to nurse on demand. Pity the bewildered new mother who wants to nurse but can't because of physical problems or her job. She is offered an astonishing array of high-tech, vitamin-rich formula but lives in a nation that exhorts choice and free will except in the baby-food aisle.

The resurgence of breast-feeding follows a buildup of research confirming benefits to mother and child that formula manufacturers have been unable to duplicate. It also closely parallels the rise of La Leche, an organization formed in 1956 by seven Chicago-area women who wanted a network of nursing mothers to support one another in what was then considered radical behavior. At that time, less than 29% of mothers were nursing their week-old infants. The percentage would eventually dip to 25% in 1971 before climbing to 70% today.

La Leche, which promotes breast-feeding through meetings and telephone support, originally appealed to "young hippies," says spokeswoman Mary Lofton. "There had been this love affair with technology, thinking if something was made in a lab, it was better. But when the back-to-nature movement came along, we were there." And, Mrs. Lofton maintains, "all of the ideas we promoted--to breast-feed right after delivery, to do it frequently . . . these were revolutionary ideas at the time, but every single one of those things is accepted pediatric practice today."

La Leche's influence is such that when the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) launched a breast-feeding campaign in June 2004, La Leche trained the counselors who answered the government's hotlines. The goal of that continuing campaign is to get 75% of American mothers to breast-feed initially and 50% to breast-feed exclusively for at least six months. Using the catch phrase "babies are born to be breast-fed," the campaign distributes ads for television, radio and the print media. The mechanical-bull ad drew some complaints but was effective, claims Christina Pearson, an HHS spokeswoman.

While one government agency is promoting breast-feeding, however, another is handing out formula. The Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, administered by the Department of Agriculture, gives states grants to provide free formula, food and breast-feeding support to low-income women. Nearly half of all infants in the U.S. are enrolled, and 54% of infant formula in the U.S. is distributed through WIC. Since the late 1980s, states have negotiated contracts with formula manufacturers, who returned rebates to the states totaling $1.64 billion in 2004, the last year for which statistics are available. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 29% of WIC recipients are breast-feeding at six months, compared with 46% of women who are eligible for WIC but don't receive the aid and 47% of ineligible women.

The result, says James Akre, the author of "The Problem With Breastfeeding" (a new book that takes issue with some of the popular aversion to breast-feeding) is that, by handing out more formula than breast pumps, the government is encouraging "deviant behavior" and "billions of dollars are going to provide poor children with food based on an alien food source"--the alien being a cow. Mr. Akre, a resident of Geneva, Switzerland, and a retired official of the World Health Organization, believes that, as in the case of seatbelts and tobacco, a society's attitude toward breast-feeding can change in a generation. "It's not women who breast-feed, after all. It's cultures and societies as a whole," he says.

Until the late 1800s, women had little choice but to breast-feed. The only question was whether the child's mother would do it or someone else--a paid wet nurse or a slave. Every culture tried substitutes (sugared water or cow's or goat's milk early on, evaporated milk and Karo syrup more recently), but experimentation sometimes killed babies. Swiss pharmacist Henri Nestl, produced the first formula in the 1860s, saving the life of an orphaned baby and launching an $8 billion world-wide market in which Nestle is still the leader.

The marketing of baby formula is tricky for manufacturers, which must admit on their labels that breast-milk is superior. To compensate, they rely heavily on coupons and formula samples offered through hospitals. New mothers typically leave American hospitals with a gift bag supplied by a formula manufacturer. Breast-feeding advocates want to end the practice.

Earlier this year, Massachusetts enacted the first ban on the gift bags, but it was killed by Gov. Mitt Romney, who cited the need for choice. The debate over breast-feeding simmers with political tension because it encapsulates the larger question of personal freedom versus social good. In likening formula to current public-health pariahs, breast-feeding advocates hope to send formula down a similar dark path.

The Massachusetts Breastfeeding Coalition announced plans for a nationwide "Ban the Bags" campaign at the International Lactation Consultant Association meeting in Philadelphia last week. Dr. Melissa Bartick, the coalition's chairwoman, has promised that formula marketing in hospitals won't last. She adds: "We'd never tolerate the thought of hospitals giving out coupons for Big Macs on the cardiac unit." So baby formula is not yet the new cigarette. But it's already the new Big Mac.


Sunday, July 23, 2006


Or so food-faddist logic would say. Report from Britain below:

Many popular breakfast cereals contain as much salt and sugar as a packet of crisps or a chocolate bar, according to new research. There is even one brand with as much fat as in a packet of thick pork sausages. Parents will be shocked by the latest findings from the consumer organisation Which? as most believe a bowl of cereal is a healthy start to their children's day.

Despite claims by manufacturers that they have cut down on salt and sugar in cereals the watchdog scrutinised 275 brands and found that an overwhelming majority, some 76 per cent, had high levels of sugar, a fifth had high levels of salt and seven per cent contained saturated fat. The probe also found that of the 52 cereals marketed specifically for children some 88 per cent were high in sugar, 13 per cent high in salt and 10 per cent high in saturated fat.

The three overall worst offenders for children were Quaker Oatso Simple Kids (any flavour), Kellogg's Coco Pops Straws and Mornflake Pecan and Maple Crisp. These get red alerts for sugar and saturated fat. Kellogg's Coco Pop Straws contained the same amount of sugar as a two finger Kit Kat which has 34g sugar per 100g.

Which? is now calling on manufacturers to do more to reduce levels of these nutrients particularly in products appealing to children. It is also pressing firms to adopt the red, amber and green labels on front of packs so that shoppers find it easier to pick out the healthier products.

So far Tesco and leading manufacturers Nestle, PepsiCo, Kraft, Kellogg and Danone, have refused to endorse these red junk food labels on food advocated by the Food Standards Agency and instead prefer a complicated system of guidance daily amounts on packs.

Researchers at Which? worked out the colour coded alerts that should be included on front of pack traffic light labels for each product. The five worst offenders for sugar contained 10 or more teaspoons per 100g and three are aimed at children - Asda Golden Puffs, Sainsbury's Golden Puffs and Kellogg's Ricicles. The other two are Morrissons Golden Puffs and Tesco Golden Honey Puffs. A teaspoon of sugar is equivalent of 4gs sugar. Four of the five products contained more sugar per 100g than a Toffee Crisp which has 47.9g sugar. The highest were the Asda and Morrissons Golden Puffs with 55g sugar per 100g. Another nine cereals contained more than four teaspoons of sugar per suggested portion of which several were mueslis where the sugar came from dried fruit. Only 13 per cent of all products would have scored a green light label for sugar content.

More here

Friday, July 21, 2006

Dangerous herb: "Millions of women may be at risk of liver disorders because they take the herbal remedy black cohosh to counter hot flushes and other symptoms of the menopause. An official alert over Cimicifuga racemosa was issued by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency yesterday and warnings will soon appear on all products containing the plant. Black cohosh is also sold as black snake root, rattle snake root and squaw root in a market worth 4.6 million pounds a year. Black cohosh, which is sold as drops or capsules that cost between 5 and 10 pounds for a month's supply, has been available in Britain for more than 20 years. Its use has increased since 2003, when a study linked HRT with higher risks of heart attack, stroke and breast cancer. Professor Philip Routledge, chairman of the Herbal Medicines Advisory Committee, said that the data underlined a link between black cohosh and a risk of liver disorders. "This is rare, but can be serious," he said. Anyone who has suffered a liver complaint or any other serious health problem was advised to consult their GP before taking it."

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


Many fruit drinks contain more sugar and calories than Coca-Cola, experts have found. Popular drinks are packed with hidden sugar and kilojoules, an investigation by The Sunday Mail found. And compared with freshly prepared fruit and vegetables they contain less fibre and fewer nutrients.

Dietician Kate Diprima said many people were not aware of the high kilojoule count in fruit drinks. "Many consumers choosing these are watching their weight and therefore will be surprised that the calories are comparable to cordial and soft drink," she said. Ms Diprima was asked by The Sunday Mail to analyse seven popular drinks, including a "blueberry blast"-flavoured Boost juice, Ribena blackcurrant fruit drink, Pop Tops orange drink, V8 Fruit & Veg Juice, Berri Juice It Up (pineapple, mango, banana and spirulina) and a McDonald's chocolate thick shake. "All the drinks analysed were incredibly sweet and concentrated, which only encourages a very sweet tooth," she said.

Coke was found to contain the fewest calories and the McDonald's chocolate shake the most. The orange-flavoured Pop Top, popular for children's lunch boxes, was not so popular with Ms Diprima. "It has no health benefits at all -- only five per cent juice or 12.5ml of orange juice. The only positive over the cola is that it is caffeine-free, therefore non-addictive," she said. "Poppers and pop-top juices should be limited to party foods, not lunchboxes."

Ribena, which is billed as containing real fruit juice and free of artificial sweeteners, contains 14.1g of sugar per 100ml. This makes it more sugary than cola. Coca-Cola, which is criticised for its lack of nutritional value, contains 10.6g of sugar per 100ml or 39.8g per can. The Boost blueberry blast fruit smoothie contains a whopping 72 calories per 100ml, or 468 calories in a regular serve -- quarter of an adult's recommended daily intake.

Diprima warned sugary drinks could cause bowel irritations, weight gain and dehydration. Derek Lewis, of the Australian Dental Association, said the drinks could also lead to dental problems. "You end up with either decay from the sugar in the drink or this erosion problem from the acid in the drink. In combination, high sugar and high acid is devastating," he said. "The profession is concerned about dental erosion, we call it the silent epidemic, particularly here in southeast Queensland, where acidic drinks, including citrus juices, dissolve teeth over time.

Dr Lewis advised parents to limit children's consumption of juice or fruit drinks. "It really doesn't matter what the source of the acid or the sugar is, whether it's a natural product or an artificial soft drink, they still have the same effect."

Queensland University of Technology Institute of Health and Biomedical researcher, Susan Ash, said the "high density" drinks could lead to child obesity. "The children can be getting quite significant amounts of unnecessary energy from the drinks," she said. "You only need to be consuming a small amount above your energy needs for your weight to go up." Ms Ash said the sugar from soft drink was metabolised the same way as sugar from juice. "It terms of weight control, it doesn't matter what the type of sugar, it's still going to give you that same amount of energy when it's broken down in the body," she said. "People don't go to a tap or bubbler any more to get a drink. "It has to be somehow processed into a flavoured beverage -- and it's hard to get a drink less than 600ml."


Monday, July 17, 2006

Brits love boob jobs: "Figures released today show that breast enlargements are now the most popular form of cosmetic surgery in the UK. More than 26,000 women went under the knife last year - up 150 per cent on figures for 2003. And it's estimated that by 2007, Britons will spend a whopping 659 million pounds a year on sculpting the body beautiful. So why the huge rise in mammary makeovers? It's all down to science, reckons consultant plastic surgeon Rajiv Grover. "There have been great advances in the type of implants available in the past five or ten years. "Implants aren't filled with liquid silicone any more so leaks are much rarer and people feel safe having the work done." Mr. Grover may be seeing more clients than ever but it seems their requirements have got more conservative of late. "A few years ago, patients liked the idea of a big, busty look but now they're far more concerned with looking natural. "Most of the women I see want to go up about two cup sizes"

Kissing is good for you: :The couples who kiss together, stay together. That's the advice from the panel of sexperts we quizzed to mark National Kissing Day - which was last week. Sarah Hedley, editor of saucy women's mag Scarlet, reckons snogging is one of the sexiest things you can do. She told us: "A very passionate kiss releases a feel good chemical in the body called oxytocin. "According to scientists, oxytocin is linked to fidelity so, put simply, if you kiss you won't feel the need to stray! "Apparently the hormone makes you feel more in love and stable." ... According to Sarah, kissing shouldn't be limited to the lips. She told us: "It might sound a bit strange but it's a good idea to kiss areas that sweat, like armpits and the top lip. "They're both areas with high pheromone levels, so in getting close and kissing, you'll be breathing in each other's pheromones which in turn increase arousal."... "Everyone is capable of having a mind-blowing snog. And it shouldn't be restricted to the mouth, being kissed on the neck is totally sexy... Telly sexpert Tracey Cox - who's best known for analysing couples' sex lives on C4's The Sex Inspectors - recommends couples try a Champagne Kiss. She advises: "Take a good gulp of chilled champagne into your mouth, resist the urge to swallow and hold it there. "Next lean over and kiss your partner, letting a tiny amount of champagne trickle into their mouth."
Sofa Tax Would Be Good for the Children, Says Health Group

Flanked by poster-sized images of Fat Albert and Babe Ruth, the American Mendacity Association (AMA) today launched a new initiative for a federal tax on sofas and lounge chairs.

Following its proposal for a tax on sodas sweetened with corn syrup (the "crack cocaine" of sweeteners), the organization's board vowed to do more to "protect our children from the ravages of relaxation."

A new study sponsored by the AMA finds that 384 percent of all children are obese by age five, and most experts agree that -- just behind plentiful food and the division of labor -- the third most dangerous contributor to this epidemic is comfortable seating. According to the study, whereas 100 years ago there was only one lounge chair or sofa for every three households, thanks to technology and productivity there are now four forms of inexpensive, comfortable seating per house. This, says Harriet Hydra, president of the AMA Division of Pleasure Elimination, creates a deadly atmosphere that "inspires children to sit or lay back, and turn all those extra calories to fat."

"We all pay when people relax," said Hydra, citing "negative externalities" imposed on other citizens. Wellness providers, she said, see higher instances of obesity, diabetes, nail-biting, and insanity in children who sit or recline for longer than three hours a month on comfortable sofas. "The epidemic of obesity places a strain on our public health-care system, and hence on all of us. With a 1-cent-per-second tax on sofa sitting, we could not only change peoples' behavior, we could also generate up to $1.5 billion a year, money that could be used wisely by many of my physician friends who are ready to start up new 'sofa counseling' clinics," Hydra said.

Given the respect afforded the AMA and wellness providers in general, such a bill would stand a good chance of passing the U.S. House and Senate. Max Quartlepleen, head of the watchdog group American Scientists Who Are Extremely Concerned, added, "We're extremely concerned. We're here to fight Big Sofa."

Asked by a reporter why the negative externalities of socialized medicine should be forced on free individuals against their wills, thus opening the door to higher costs, price caps on medical services, and more government regulation of private affairs, habits, and living conditions, Quartlepleen replied: "I don't know which lobby group sent you here, whether it was Serta, Sealy, or Stearns and Foster, but buddy, we don't need loudmouths like you at public forums in America. So why don't you just take your sleep-number attitude and get outta here?!"

After the news conference Hydra was asked if she saw any impediments to passage of the AMA proposal. "Well, common sense is a problem," she said. "But we're working on that in association with the National Education Association. We could also stand to curtail the power of free thinkers and those who follow the U.S. Constitution. A lot has been done in those areas, but we're not out of the woods yet."

When asked what the AMA would do if its proposal did not become law, Hydra said that the organization has an alternate plan. "If we can't get a tax to protect our kids and wallets from this deadly scourge, we will work for better regulation of sofas, and health initiatives such as time shockers and spring spikes, to get people on their feet at regular intervals," she said. Many congressmen have openly expressed support for such measures.

As he was led away by authorities, the reporter who had disrupted the conference asked Hydra what she was going to do about things like books, music, films, and conversation, since they all tend to inspire periods of sedentary, fat-building inactivity. "We're working on that," she said.

Source (Satire, of course)

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Americans read food labels, then eat what they want, poll finds

And so they should

Oh, the irony. A nation full of overweight people is also full of label readers. Nearly 80 percent of Americans insist they check the labels on food at the grocery store. They scan the little charts like careful dieters, looking for no-nos such as fat and calories and sugars. Yet even when the label practically screams, "Don't do it!" people drop the package into the cart anyway. At least that is what 44 percent of people admitted in a recent AP-Ipsos poll.

So attentive, yet so overweight. Two-thirds of people in the United States weigh too much. Why, then, don't labels make a difference? Why do people bother with them at all? "I don't know, force of habit. I want to see what I'm getting myself into," says Loren Cook, 39, of Marysville, Washington. "It doesn't make my buying decisions for me. It's mostly a curiosity factor." He adds: "It's got to taste good. Otherwise, there's no point."

The survey of 1,003 adults, conducted May 30 to June 1, found:

* Women check labels more frequently than men, 65 percent versus 51 percent. Women also place more importance on nutrition content, 82 percent to 64 percent.

* Married men are more likely to check labels than unmarried men, by 76 percent to 65 percent.

* Younger people are more likely to look at calories on food labels. In the poll, 39 percent of people between age 18 and 29 said they look at calories first. Even so, 60 percent of younger people were more likely to buy foods that are bad for them even after they checked the label. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Are these avid label-readers really telling the truth? People do exaggerate, said Robert Blendon, professor at Harvard's School of Public Health. They tell pollsters they go to church and vote more often than they really do, he said. He does believe most people do look at labels. They just do not use labels to lose weight, he said. Instead, diabetics use it to avoid sugars, or people with high blood pressure steer clear of sodium. "It's not being used as part of a total diet to really lower their weight," Blendon said.

To help people lose weight, Blendon said, labels should state the number of calories in an entire package. Instead, labels list calories per serving, leaving shoppers to do the math. Consider ice cream. A pint might list 260 calories in a serving. Scarf down the whole container, and that is four servings, 1,040 calories, half the calories probably needed in a single day.

The current food label became standard in 1994. Since then, the number of overweight people in the U.S. has risen from 56 percent to 66 percent, [LOL] according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Consider another trend: People eat more of their meals at restaurants, where they often cannot find nutrition labels. A recent government report says people consume one-third of their calories away from home. "We can't assume that better packaged food labels are going to solve our problem," said Alice Lichtenstein, professor of nutrition at Tufts University.

The federal report said restaurants should promote healthy choices and offer more of them. It also gave an explanation for the lack of nutrition information at restaurants -- the cost, which can run from $11,500 to $46,000 to analyze all the offerings on a menu. The government is considering changes to packaged food labels to make them easier to understand. Tammy Fultz, 45, thinks labels are plenty good now. She checks whenever she shops for groceries and avoids artery-clogging trans fat. "But none of that really matters," said Fultz, who lives in Independence, Kentucky. "In the end, you still eat way more than you should and exercise way less than you should."


Friday, July 14, 2006

Don't exercise or diet and still lose weight: "Dieters take heart. Researchers have found a way you can lose weight without dieting or exercising. The Adelaide team has isolated different chemicals found in green tea, cocoa, red grapes and fish which help burn fat. Obese people, fed supplements of these polyphenols, lost 2kg over 12 weeks, without otherwise altering diet or lifestyle. "If you take the green tea polyphenols while you're eating a high-fat diet they protect you against the development of body fat," University of South Australia Professor Jon Buckley said. "If you eat them while you're trying to lose weight they'll strip weight off." These nutrients alter the "machinery" inside muscle tissue to burn more fat and could be a powerful weapon in tackling obesity."

Monday, July 10, 2006


Exercise will be compulsory in every New South Wales daycare centre and junk food will be phased out under a NSW Health Department plan to fight childhood obesity. Regulation foods and fitness programs will be rolled out across every childcare centre and pre-school under new guidelines recommended by a government working party. The authors of the government-commissioned report also recommended junk foods such as chocolate, chips, soft drinks and biscuits be eliminated.

The recommendations follow revelations overweight toddlers are being sent to dieticians while babies are sucking from soft drink bottles. The NSW report investigating obesity levels in two to five-year-olds is the biggest study of its kind in the country. It found eating habits in young children were setting them on an path to obesity. The Weight of Opinion survey is a three-part report commissioned by the State Government to investigate ways of tackling the obesity crisis in early childhood.

In the 10-year period from 1985 to 1995 the level of obesity among Australian children more than doubled - and tripled in all age groups and for both sexes. "The period from two to five is such a critical time in children development and you can really set good eating habits," report author Deanna Pagnini said. There are currently no guidelines on physical activity for young children across the country and childcare and preschools set their own rules on what foods are allowed. A government working party is now determining how much physical activity young children need and the kinds of healthy foods that are acceptable.

Co-author, obesity expert Dr Michael Booth, said drastic measures were needed: "You go to the beach and see tiny kids with soft drink in their bottles - that is the most extreme but I've seen it. It sends a shiver up the spine." Professor Booth said children as young as two needed to be educated about healthy foods. "The earlier you start the better. You even want to start before two because at the age they develop a taste for a wide variety of foods. Many kids refuse to eat vegetables because they have never developed the taste," he said.

The Weight of Opinion report detailed alarming incidents, including an event with a toddler who had weight issues and had to be referred to a dietician. "We sent her off to see a local doctor, the doctor referred her to a dietitian, and this child was about three," the report said.

The early childhood findings are the first part of the three part report which will also look at general practitioners as well as school teachers and parents, to be released over the next six months. The toddler section - released to The Saturday Daily Telegraph - said young children in formal care were a "captive audience that can be targeted with specific foods and required daily exercise. "(Efforts) need to concentrate on ... changing the structural, economic, cultural and environmental factors that make it difficult to eat healthy foods and get adequate amounts of physical activity," the report read.

Food Watch nutritionist Catherine Saxelby said it was tempting for time-poor parents to give their children pre-packaged foods. "It is quicker, self-wrapped and you know the child will eat it." Ms Saxelby said modern mums and dads found it tough to battle the avalanche of snack food marketing directed at children. "We want them to love us so we buy them things they love. Generations ago if you were a fussy eater you went to bed without any supper," she said.


Sunday, July 09, 2006

Man told his willy is 'broken': "A man was told he'd 'broken' his willy after he got randy with his wife. Adam Shaw was having a "quickie" with his wife Niki when he fell out of bed and screamed in agony. Niki, 31, grabbed a bag of frozen peas to ease the swelling as Adam's manhood ballooned to the size of a cucumber - and his testicles to the size of a coconut. He was rushed to hospital where doctors told him: "It's broken". He had an operation to mend the injured organ reports The Sun. Adam from Camborne, Cornwall said: "I never knew you could break it - but I found out the hard way. It was agony." Niki added: "He'll just have to be a little less energetic in future."

Saturday, July 08, 2006


At the Coca-Cola Company's annual meeting of shareholders on April 19, CEO Neville Isdell announced positive first-quarter results and then solicited comments from the audience on the election of directors. The first response came from Ray Rogers, a longtime labor activist - but Rogers had no intention of talking about the makeup of Coke's board. Instead, he delivered a two-minute tirade on corporate perfidy: "The World of Coca-Cola [is] a world full of lies, deception, immorality, corruption, and widespread labor, human-rights, and environmental abuses."

If the words sounded rehearsed, it wasn't merely because Rogers had prepared his statement in advance: He has uttered this line, with its reference to the Coke memorabilia museum in Atlanta, on many occasions. His favorite venues are colleges and universities, where an anti-Coke movement has grown among left-wing activists for several years. They accuse the company of murdering union leaders in Colombia, causing water shortages in India, and violating worker rights in Indonesia and Turkey. Because of the efforts of Rogers and his allies, more than a dozen schools have terminated contracts with the soda maker or expelled its vending machines from cafeterias and dormitories. Activists frequently refer to Coke as "the new Nike" - a reference to a student-led anti-sweatshop movement that went after the shoemaker in the 1990s for the allegedly sorry state of its foreign factories. Right now, the campaign to stop "Killer Coke" is perhaps the trendiest protest movement on campus.

It hasn't affected Coke's bottom line, according to Isdell. But company officials have responded aggressively: They've created a website ( to rebut various allegations; bought a domain name ( that directs potential critics to their website; and sent teams of representatives to campuses that have considered cutting ties. They're clearly worried about the effects of a long-term smear campaign orchestrated by radicals determined to beat the Real Thing. The company is doing what it can to persuade open-minded students that slogans are no substitute for facts, but there's no shortage of closed minds. "Some people won't ever be satisfied because for them this is ideological," says Isdell. "Their goal is actually anti-capitalist."

Coca-Cola is of course a potent symbol of American capitalism. From its humble origins in a Georgia pharmacy in the 1880s, Coke has become a global drink of choice. The company estimates that its products are consumed 1.3 billion times per day. BusinessWeek magazine rates it the most valuable brand in the world.

Perhaps inevitably, Coke has become an appealing target for America-haters everywhere. As U.S. economic influence spread after the Second World War, Communists in France and elsewhere derided "Coca-Colonization." Just a few years ago, in the Wahhabi equivalent of playing Led Zeppelin records backwards and listening for satanic mutterings, some Muslims argued that the mirror image of Coca-Cola's familiar script delivered an anti-Islamic message in Arabic. Since then, French entrepreneur Tawfik Mathlouthi has introduced Mecca Cola, a Coke competitor with a red-and-white label. He says his goal is to fight "America's imperialism and Zionism by providing a substitute for American goods." At first, Mecca Cola was stocked only in small ethnic stores in a few European countries, but now it can be found on supermarket shelves across the continent, as well as in the Middle East. A portion of the proceeds are earmarked for the Palestinians.

Rogers says he became involved in this latest anti-Coke crusade nearly four years ago, when members of a Colombian union, Sinaltrainal, came to his office in New York with stories about the murders of labor leaders by right-wing paramilitaries. "I wasn't looking to get into this fight," he says. But the Colombians definitely were looking for him: Rogers has a reputation as an innovative activist who cut his teeth in the 1970s during a celebrated labor struggle against the textile manufacturer J. P. Stevens (an incident that later became the subject of the movie Norma Rae, for which Sally Field won an Oscar). Since those glory days, however, Rogers has become a radioactive figure among established unionists, especially because of his involvement in a botched strike against Hormel in the 1980s. But he is still occasionally sought out by labor interests seeking to advance causes by unconventional means. He runs a shoestring operation, which was perfect for the Colombians, who couldn't afford to pay him anything.

"I was moved by their story," says Rogers. "So I started an investigation of Coke." This "investigation," he admits, did not include any site visits: "I've never been to Colombia, but I'd love to get there." Nor did it involve a single contact with the Coca-Cola Company itself; Rogers didn't actually sit down with a Coke employee until last spring when he agreed to a meeting at Coke's request. "When I get involved in a campaign, I don't seek out corporate executives," he explains. "I represent people."

The people he ostensibly represents - those Colombians - say that right-wing paramilitaries killed eight union members between 1989 and 2002 and that these deaths were coordinated with Coke officials who were trying to weaken the unions at local bottling plants. These charges aren't even close to proven. Two judicial inquiries in Colombia found no evidence to support them. In 2003, a federal judge dismissed Coke as a defendant in a frivolous case filed by the International Labor Rights Fund. The IUF, the labor organization that represents more Coke workers than any other union in the world, has condemned the anti-Coke movement: "The boycott call is based on unsubstantiated allegations and empty political slogans. This call for a boycott will damage, rather than strengthen, the credibility of all those seeking to secure union rights for all employees in the Coca-Cola system." Rogers bristles at the mention of IUF: "From the start, it's been a thorn in my side."

It's also impossible to ignore the fact that Colombia has suffered from a prolonged civil war, in which both left-wing and right-wing groups have killed thousands of Colombians. That some of these deaths would touch union members who work at Coke facilities, where the unionization rate is considerably higher than it is elsewhere in the country, should not come as a shock. Even so, Sinaltrainal leaders have said that the families of the slain workers ought to receive payments equal to the salary of Coke's CEO. Rogers, for his part, notes that Coca-Cola paid nearly $200 million a few years ago to settle a class-action lawsuit based on racial discrimination. "They can afford this," he says.

Taking on a huge company such as Coke presents an enormous challenge - but Rogers's strategy doesn't call for a broad-based consumer boycott that would certainly flop. Instead, he seeks to achieve a series of small campus-level victories that generate unwelcome publicity for a brand-sensitive company as well as a sense of momentum for college students who are looking for a fashionable cause. "One of the reasons Rogers can attract students is because he can make them feel like they're participating in something by not doing anything at all," says Jarol Manheim, a political scientist at George Washington University who studies anti-corporate movements. "All they have to do is quit drinking Coke." Social responsibility has never been easier, especially with Pepsi available as an alternative.

To start the campaign, Rogers cherry-picked small schools such as Lake Forest College in Illinois and Bard College in New York. Last year, however, he scored a bigger victory when Rutgers ended an exclusive contract with Coke. By the end of 2005, both New York University and the University of Michigan had banned Coke. At Michigan, the administration demanded that Coke prove its innocence by cooperating in an independent investigation of the activists' key claims. Rogers was on a roll.

The irony is that by thinking globally and acting locally, these Coke bans can punish American unionists. Because Coke is bottled close to where it's sold all over the planet, a decision by the University of Michigan to halt Coke sales exerts precisely no pressure on bottlers in Colombia - but it does threaten union jobs in the Detroit area. "We fill those machines in Ann Arbor, so this hurts us and we don't have anything to do with what's going on in Colombia," says Richard Gremaud of Teamsters Local 337. Does Rogers care about these American workers? "In any kind of solidarity, there is pain," he replies. Gremaud feels differently: "If he was losing his job, he wouldn't say that."

The good news for these Teamsters is that the University of Michigan's administration rescinded its ban in April: Coke agreed to an independent investigation by the International Labor Organization, a branch of the United Nations. A report is expected this fall. Although the investigation hasn't even started, Rogers is already condemning it on the grounds that Ed Potter, a high-level Coke official, is a member of the U.S. delegation to the ILO. "There are 640 people who have a final vote in the ILO conference's legislative process," says Potter. "I have one of them, and I won't have anything to do with this investigation. To suggest that there's any undue influence is preposterous."

But it's an allegation Rogers needs to have ready, because an exoneration of Coke by the ILO would deliver a solid blow to his efforts. Rogers, in fact, has had to deal with a handful of recent setbacks. In Britain, the National Union of Students, a large purchasing co-op, voted to continue its relationship with Coke. And in the United States, there may be an emerging pro-Coke counter-movement: When a debate over Coke reached Michigan State University in East Lansing earlier this year, students affiliated with Young Americans for Freedom passed out fliers in support of the company.

In the end, the anti-Coke movement may fizzle like a can of pop that's been open too long. There's even a chance it will end almost exactly the same way the Coke shareholders meeting did in April: with Ray Rogers standing in the back of the room, shouting about how he hadn't been allowed to speak, even though he had.


A proposed ban on a popular kids' food backfires

Jonathan Durkee has two words for state Senator Jarrett Barrios : Thank you. Durkee is treasurer of the Lynn company that produces Marshmallow Fluff, which Barrios targeted last month when he tried to ban the Fluffernutter sandwich from school lunches .

But Barrios did not realize how much of a New England icon sweet marshmallow spread slathered over white bread and twinned with peanut butter was. The bill to ban it drew legions of protective Fluffernutter patriots to arms. In a profile-in-courage counterattack, a state representative even proposed making the Fluffernutter the official sandwich of Massachusetts. The Fluffernutter Wars were on.

``Nightline" chimed in, along with Regis and Kelly and The Los Angeles Times. Red-state Americans who never heard of Fluff began to wonder what it was, and displaced New Englanders around the country started licking their lips with a Pavlovian reflex forged in childhood. Fluffernutter: Home. Eat. Happy. Good. Then the inevitable. Internet orders sent to the mother ship in Lynn skyrocketed 800 percent from 10 to 80 cases a day -- and not just from expatriate Bostonians. Curious Fluffernutter first-timers like James Harmon of Nashville dialed in. ``I read a couple articles and saw a story on CNN," he wrote in an e-mail. ``So I had to try [it]."

Durkee said it was too early to tell if the bump would carry through to the holiday season, when sales typically peak. In Lynn, fingers remained crossed. A thank-you letter to Barrios? Not yet in the mail


Friday, July 07, 2006

Viagra in a tube: "First there were potions, then pumps, then pills. But finding help for problems with sexual arousal could soon be as easy as buying toothpaste - with the arrival of an impotence treatment in a tube. A gel expected to become the world's first over-thecounter medication for erectile dysfunction was announced yesterday to a clamour of excitement from pharmaceutical executives and claims of a new sexual revolution. The non-prescription treatment, which would be available from pharmacies and supermarkets, will bring anti-impotence treatments into the consumer mainstream as never before if it passes clinical trials. The gel, codenamed MED2002, is being developed by Futura Medical in collaboration with GlaxoSmithKline and is designed to be applied directly to the penis.... James Barder, the chief executive of Futura, said yesterday that MED2002 could be in the shops within three years, having already proved its efficacy in initial trials."

The New York Times shocked women last week with an astonishing article in its "Science Times section" titled, "Breast-feed or Else." While laying claim to a balanced approach by describing as "controversial" a public health campaign that compares the failure to breast feed as equivalent to smoking while pregnant," the paper, nevertheless, ended up producing an extremely biased article. In claiming positive outcomes to breast feeding that are unjustified by scientific studies, the Times effectively told parents that giving their babies formula is tantamount to letting them smoke.

But the costs of nursing are substantial: the reduced time for work due to the need to pump, nurse, eat and sleep has a huge economic and social impact on women and their families. Nursing can also lead to depression or other unhealthy emotional states. It can be painful, and there are sometimes medical reasons why nursing is not recommended. Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) infections can be transmitted by breast milk and can cause considerable problems in newborn babies - and sometimes lead to life-threatening illnesses. Drug addicts obviously should not nurse; but even smokers and drinkers ought to consider the impact (and quantity) of their use on their babies.

And for some women the milk simply isn't there despite conscientious efforts. This can lead to either health problems for the baby who isn't getting enough calories, or paying $4-$10 per ounce for donated milk (if it's available). For a five-month old baby downing about 30 ounces a day, that's one pretty little college fund gone in human milk.

For these reasons, many scientists have investigated the purported benefits of human breast milk for infants (largely ignoring the mother in their calculations), and the results are mixed. Only in a narrow segment of the population is nursing actually a bad idea, but the real question is how good is good? Can we quantify the extra benefit? Is nursing really so much better than formula that we can make a similar comparison to the risk of smoking and not smoking?

In affirming this comparison, the Times extensively quoted Dr. Lawrence Gartner, chairman of the breast-feeding section of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Gartner claimed that breast-feeding protects "against acute infectious diseases - including meningitis, upper and lower respiratory infections, pneumonia, bowel infections, diarrhea and ear infections." The Times added that the AAP claims "Some studies also suggest that breast-fed babies are at lower risk for sudden infant death syndrome and serious chronic diseases later in life, including asthma, diabetes, leukemia and some forms of lymphoma."

In the AAP primary scientific position statement (hosted on the front page of their breastfeeding page), the organization states "Extensive research using improved epidemiologic methods and modern laboratory techniques documents diverse and compelling advantages for infants, mothers, families, and society from breastfeeding and use of human milk for infant feeding. These advantages include health, nutritional, immunologic, developmental, psychologic, social, economic, and environmental benefits."

We decided to take a closer look at these claims than the Times did; the real story is both surprising and reassuring. We start with the scariest question first: Will babies die if they are not nursed? According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), breastfeeding leads to a 21 percent decrease in the death rate of babies in an age range over one month and under one-year old. But turn to the AAP's source. The scientific study used to support this claim found that babies who are nursed are less likely to die. of injuries! While it may be hard to explain away that data, it is hard to believe that the AAP is recommending that exhausted, tired, guilt-ridden, and otherwise strung out mothers nurse because otherwise, their child might end up falling off a table.

There is, in this paper, a weak association between nursing and a reduced risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). But the association is not statistically significant (the 95 percent confidence interval is .67-1.05). And since there is no obvious mechanism for this either, we are left wondering whether this is because breast milk (possibly in a bottle) helps reduce the risk, or whether it's the physical attention obtained by being nursed frequently during the night, or whether it's that nursing babies are sleeping with their parent more. If it's the latter, for example, then we should advocate co-sleeping rather than nursing. Finding this kind of poor science behind a huge AAP campaign to promote breast milk and nursing over formula got us wondering. What other wives tales are out there?

Let's be honest: if the only adverse consequence of not nursing is that babies get a few more colds, we could leave the decision making to the parents. The real question is whether there are dangerous or potentially long-term damaging illnesses (such as ear infections that lead to hearing loss) for babies who aren't nursed versus babies who are. And how long (or how much) should a baby be nursed in order to keep his or her risk down?

One of the big problems in trying to assess this question is that not all nursing is equal. There are mothers who nurse exclusively, mothers who use expressed breast milk (delivered in bottles), mothers who freeze milk, or use pasteurized (donated) milk, or use some breast milk and some formula, and a combination of all of the above. Then there are the babies, some of whom are premature, or have low birth weight, or have other health issues that could make nursing harder; there are some babies who are nursed until they are four-years old, and others who nurse until they are six-weeks old.

Finally, we must add a complicating factor that it's virtually impossible to carry out the gold standard of research on this issue - a case-controlled study in which mothers are randomly assigned whether to nurse or not. Our observational power may also be limited; at least in principle, because women (and families) who nurse are not the same as those who don't, making any comparison of the outcomes extremely difficult.

But even if we accept these difficulties and try to assess the literature, the picture is not as clear as that painted by the AAP. We found several incidents, like the death-by-injury statistic, which suggested the organization was exaggerating the findings in the literature. Many of the papers referenced were done in the 1980s, when medical care, daycare, and social contexts were significantly different from those today. Perhaps more importantly, studies done in the 1980s did not control for all the factors (such as whether the parents smoke) that we now know have an important impact on infant health. Other studies - especially more recent papers - simply didn't find what AAP claimed they did.

More here

Thursday, July 06, 2006


But hey wait! That shafts vegetarians!

And it is no accident that in Wellington beats the heart of political correctness in New Zealand. Its inner suburbs are white, middle-class, university educated and their income and status protects them from daily experience of society's detritus or riff-raff. Unlike, say, the provinces. But it had not been possible -until now - to identify the epicentre, the ground zero of PC-dom in Wellington. Until last week.

That's when Wadestown Primary School banned peanut butter sandwiches from its precincts because someone, somewhere, sometime might just have a nut allergy. And - omigod -die. For the same reason, they've also banned Nutella sandwiches, hazel nuts, cashew nuts, muesli bars and anything that has ever been near a nut product in a dairy, supermarket or mum's pantry. In other words: No nuts.

Now this may be simply due to the fact that there are already too many on their board of trustees and in the staff room. Probably. When questioned as to why the favourite spreads of Kiwi kids should be exorcised, Wadestown school explained that a child had died from anaphylactic shock after exposure to a peanut.

Really? Where? Australia. How old was this child? Fourteen. And the circumstances? A teenage boy -at secondary school - who had a severe nut allergy was challenged to eat one by a few of his mates. He was stupid enough to do so - the culinary equivalent of crunching into a cyanide pill.

On that basis, Wadestown Primary School enforced its ban. Incredibly, the parents have accepted such ridiculousness. Despite there being no recorded death, in more than 25 years, of a child dying in New Zealand of anaphylactic shock from a peanut allergy. Even the main allergy lobby group in this country is opposed to the ban.

Yes, but what happens to those children who accept and venerate the nut as part of their culture? Say, vegetarians? Having enforced the ban, the Wadestown staff and trustees could not be seen to be backing down. On the other hand -and despite good medical evidence - vegetarians are people too. And oppressed people - primarily due to not shaving their legs, eschewing deodorants and bathing in their own urine.

But like the good teachers' college graduates that they are, Wadestown found a solution. They would isolate the nut-crunchers to a "safe" area of the school. The peanut purveyors would receive a form of supervised community care. Although the aim would still be to wean them from their insensitivity and immaturity.


Tuesday, July 04, 2006


Bouncing in the back yard has long been a favourite pastime for Queensland children but new research shows that trampolining is one of the most dangerous activities for those aged six and under. In Queensland, about 1500 children visit hospital emergency departments with trampoline-related injuries each year, most with a broken bone from falling off the equipment. The Queensland Injury Surveillance Unit found that 93 per cent of trampoline accidents happened at home and 20 per cent were admitted to hospital.

Christopher Mobbs, an emergency medicine specialist at Sydney's St Vincent's Hospital and co-author of the study, said that of trampoline injuries in children aged under 15, 48 per cent were in children under six. "The big outcome from this study is that children under the age of six are the most commonly injured and that was nearly half of all injuries we saw in that age group in this study," Dr Mobbs said. "Children under the age of six shouldn't be allowed to use trampolines because of the increased risk of injury to that age group." The study was done on children presenting at Sydney Children's Hospital in 2004 and last year, during which time 152 trampoline injuries were recorded.

Olympic trampoline silver medallist Ji Wallace, from Logan south of Brisbane, admitted it was just luck that prevented him being injured when he used to play on the family trampoline when he was a child. He said parents needed to be more aware of the seriousness of trampoline injuries and be in the back yard when children were using the trampoline. "It's just like a swimming pool - you don't throw the kids in the pool and say, 'there you go, see you later'," Mr Wallace said.

Dr Mobbs said one of the major recommendations to come out of the study was the need for proper and constant adult supervision for children old enough to safely use a trampoline.....

National Trampoline Sports Management chairman Chuck Smith said there were many benefits to trampolining, including aerobic exercise and learning acrobatic skills. "Children learn how to move, how to control themselves in the air and they learn how to have fun doing what they can't do on the ground - it's a bit like being weightless or being in space," Mr Smith said...


Sunday, July 02, 2006

Head lice shrug off shampoo: "Scientists have finally confirmed what parents and teachers have long suspected. Head lice have become impervious to the campaign to eradicate them. After randomly sampling almost 3000 schoolchildren in Wales, British scientists have concluded over-the-counter insecticidal shampoos to clear lice do little more than make the critters cleaner. Four out of five head lice collected during the research were found to be resistant to malathion, permethrin and phenothrin, the pesticides most commonly used in delousing treatments, according to a paper published in the British Medical Association journal Archives of Disease in Childhood. The findings did not surprise Australia's head lice expert, Richard Speare, of James Cook University. The last hope is a cocktail of herbal extracts and essential oils, with few clinical field trials to measure their efficacy and resistance potential. "A few herbal treatments such as Liceblaster, which rely on a whole range of compounds with active components, do work," Professor Speare said. "Instead of relying on a single chemical, the compounds work through a number of different pathways, so it is more difficult for the lice to become resistant." The alternative is the weekly white conditioner, he said, which thoroughly applied stun lice for 20 minutes, allowing easier removal with a nit comb."