Monday, September 10, 2007

The campaign against Nutrasweet (aspartame)

Coming as I do from a big sugar-producing area (Far North Queensland), I always read carefully the little sachets that one gets with one's coffee in coffee lounges. I make sure that I am putting real sugar in my coffee and not some substitute junk. So I should be in sympathy with the campaign against aspartame, right? Wrong! As far as I can see, the campaign is founded on little more than the usual self-glorifying belief that if something is popular it must be bad.

There is a list here of 13 recent anti-aspartame studies and, unless I have missed something, there is not one study of the type that would be decisive: A double-blind study in humans. There are plenty of in vitro ("test tube") and in vivo (rats and mice) studies but that's about it.

And even some of the studies listed there admit that some of the potentially bad byproducts of aspartame metabolism can be broken down rapidly by other food components or metabolites. So showing that rats on a rat diet cannot handle aspartame well tells us nothing about humans. What is needed are studies of humans on a human diet as it seems probable that the human metabolism CAN safely break down aspartame. One has to look at the bottom line, not intermediate processes in isolation.

Since a double blind study in humans should not pose any great difficulty, I think it is the absence of such a study which is most telling.

The attention-seeking studies have however had an effect. There are now various bans on aspartame, particularly in Europe and the UK. Seeing how crazy such places also are about "obesity", it is strange indeed that something which could help combat obesity is restricted on such flimsy grounds. It reinforces the impression that the attack on obesity is insincere too. It adds to the evidence that the anti-obesity campaign is really an expression of middle-class contempt for the working class, who are indeed fatter on the whole: Good old class-prejudice again. The more things change ....

The amusing thing is that all the food and health rhetoric goes right over the heads of most working class people. They very wisely just don't listen. They just eat what they like and damn the consequences. I do too. But my father was, after all, a lumberjack. Heh!

Are baby milk additives rotting babies' bowels?

Prebiotics: Another fad goes bad. If this one causes Crohn's disease it is a real disaster. If baby formula makers don't act on this immediately, they could be in big trouble. They might be in big trouble already

DOCTORS have warned that infant milk formula containing added fruit sugars could be causing gut disorders in children. Several new milk formula products, including Nutricia and Aptamil, contain prebiotics such as fructose or other short-chain carbohydrates to improve digestive health.

But Melbourne researchers have found prebiotics in the diet can cause gastrointestinal problems. They are worried that the latest nutrition fad could be doing "more harm than good" in children with a predisposition to gut problems. Gastroenterology expert Prof Peter Gibson expressed concerns about adding prebiotics to infant formula. "Excessive intake of sugars that escape digestion and absorption in the small intestine contribute to susceptibility and symptom generation in Crohn's disease, irritable bowel syndrome and ulcerative colitis," he said. "And excessive intake of such sugars are particular to the Western diet. "But for those who are susceptible to these diseases, the short-chain carbohydrates or prebiotics extend the bowel and make it worse."

Prof Gibson said drugs did not work well with these conditions and there "are few ways of dealing with them". "People appear to be getting better by taking these foods out of the diet. People with IBS who take these out of their diet that we have studied -- three out of four have shown a significant improvement."

His team has measured the prebiotic contents of food in the Australian diet in order to generate a nutritional database. They are studying the dietary intake of 100 people with Crohn's disease over the next 12 months to confirm the findings of a pilot study. That study found more than half of the 52 patients with Crohn's disease who removed prebiotics from their diet improved their symptoms. "Prebiotics provide good bacteria to maintain good digestive health," Prof Gibson said. "But they are likely to make bowel conditions worse."



Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? And what about butter and margarine? They are just about pure fat. Surely they should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

Trans fats:

For one summary of the weak science behind the "trans-fat" hysteria, see here. Trans fats have only a temporary effect on blood chemistry and the evidence of lasting harm from them is dubious. By taking extreme groups in trans fats intake, some weak association with coronary heart disease has at times been shown in some sub-populations but extreme group studies are inherently at risk of confounding with other factors and are intrinsically of little interest to the average person.


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