Thursday, July 31, 2008

Spanking 'causes mental illness'

What rubbish! More likely the lack of it causes psychological problems. But the study noted below allows no causal inferences either way. It says that children who are smacked more are more badly behaved. It does not seem to have entered the addled heads of the do-gooders who wrote the report that maybe the kids who are smacked more are smacked BECAUSE they are badly behaved. Ignoring the obvious is no problem if you have ideological blinkers on

Smacking and yelling at children is causing a rise in mental health problems, with three-year-olds suffering from depression and anxiety. At least one in seven children are affected by a mental illness. Some psychologists are reporting a 60 per cent increase in the number of youngsters displaying anxiety and social issues.

A study from the Murdoch Children's Research Institute has found that harsh discipline and parental stress is increasing the risk of mental health troubles in young children. Stressed parents lashing out at their kids are behind the growing problem. Study author and child psychologist Dr Jordana Bayer said constant smacking and yelling at a child was fuelling abusive behaviour. "We are not talking about a parent who smacks just once," she said. "Remember when parents smack or hit their child, they might learn to do that as well. When parents are stressed, it's more challenging to be relaxed and respond to their children in ways they would like to respond to them."

Researchers have been following more than 700 toddlers, aged between seven months and three years, to reveal the risks of parenting practices. Children subjected to physical punishment are more likely to kick, hit and bite others and become socially withdrawn. Parents who continue to smack their abusive children could be setting them on a path of alcohol and drug abuse, crime, unemployment and suicide.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien, of the Quirky Kids Clinic at Woollahra, Sydney, said stressed parents were placing too much pressure on their children. "We have seen a 60 per cent increase in demand for our child anxiety classes in the past six months," she said.

Mental health has become one of the nation's biggest health issues. Psychologists are seeing toddlers biting their nails, while older children are wetting the bed and pulling out their eyelashes as a result of anxiety. Despite a push by experts to ban smacking, some adults are still using the "traditional" method to discipline children. Childhood Foundation CEO Joe Tucci said hitting youngsters had become outdated.


Alzheimer's sufferers given hope by new generation of drugs

Millions of Alzheimer's sufferers have been given fresh hope after a new generation of drugs were shown to reverse the symptoms of the disease

The treatment can bring the "worst affected parts of the brain back to life" and scientists say it is twice as effective as any medication currently available. They even suggested the drug works so well it might be given to patients in the future to prevent the onset of the illness. The results of the human trials were hailed a "major new development" in the fight against the disease, which threatens to overwhelm the NHS within decades. Alzheimer's currently affects more than 400,000 people in Britain and the number of sufferers is expected to rise rapidly as the population ages. The cost of treating the condition will double from $34billion to $70billion by 2026.

The researchers say that if further tests of the drug, called rember, are successful it could be available within four to five years. "We appear to be bringing the worst affected parts of the brain functionally back to life," said Prof Claude Wischik of Aberdeen University, who carried out the trials on 321 people with the illness. He added: "It's an aspiration for us to develop a drug that we could give preventatively from a certain stage."

Jimmy Hardie, 72, from Aberdeenshire, was one of the patients who took part in the trials. He used to put sugar in the fridge and suffered mood swings caused by his disease. But his wife Dorothy, 69, believes that his condition has improved enormously since he started taking rember in 2006. "Two years ago if Jimmy had gone to his shed he may have forgotten what he was about to do," she said. "Now he is able to plan what he wants to do, go and get the tools he needs and do the task. It is encouraging."

Helen Carle, 68, of Cove, near Aberdeen, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2003 after becoming forgetful and panicky. She says that she has seen a great difference since she began taking rember three years ago. "I still have the same personality and I think I am more alert," she said.

Those involved in the human trial and were divided into four groups - three were given a different dosage of the drug, called rember, while the fourth group took a placebo. Even after 19 months, patients receiving the highest dose had not experienced significant decline from original position.

"This is a major new development in the fight against dementia," said Prof Clive Ballard, head of research at the Alzheimer's Society. The results were the "first realistic evidence" that a new drug can improve cognition in people with Alzheimer's by targeting a leading cause of brain cell death and suggested that it could be "over twice as effective as any treatment that is currently available," he said.

Rebecca Wood, chief executive of the Alzheimer's Research Trust, said, "This is an encouraging development in the fight against a devastating disease. In this exploratory trial, rember reduced the decline in blood flow to parts of the brain that are important for memory. She added: "We need more human trials to assess the treatment's possible side-effects."

Larger trials - phase three trials on around 1,000 people - of the best dose are still needed to establish the benefit and safety of the drug, which means it could be five years before it is available. The drugs are expected to cost the same as current treatments for the illness such as Aricept, which are $5 a day.

However, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (Nice) the Government's drugs watchdog, ruled that Aricept, which has been shown to improve the memory and day-to-day life of those in the late stages of the disease, was too expensive for widespread use in Britain. Terry Pratchett, the best selling author who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, disclosed earlier this year that he was being forced to pay for the drug himself.

The latest breakthrough will lead for increased calls for Nice to reconsider its policy on dementia drugs. A spokesman for the Alzheimer's Society said: "NICE remit needs to be take into account the wider benefits of treatments to society and the way the drugs can save money in other areas such as Social Care in order to cater for conditions like dementia."

Previously Alzheimer's treatments have targeted the formation of protein molecules, or plaques, in the brain of patients which clump together to wreck the networks that hold memories, enable us to perform tasks or knit together when we learn something new. The new family of drugs works by preventing the build up of different molecules called tau protein inside brain cells.

Prof Wischik has been working on the link between Alzheimer's and tau protein for more than 20 years. His work was presented today in Chicago to the International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease.


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The propaganda never stops: Diet changes improve chances of older women giving birth

This is superstition, not science

DRASTIC changes in diet boost a woman's chances of giving birth into her 40s and 50s, according to new claims. Cutting out alcohol and sugar and eating more organic foods allow women to hit the "snooze button" on their biological clocks, maximising their chances of having a baby, a new book on fertility claims.

Sarah Dobbyn, a nutritionist and author of The Fertility Diet, said the influence of diet on fertility was often overlooked in an age in which IVF often seemed the only answer to pregnancy problems. "Huge amounts of money are being spent on assisted conception techniques by hopeful couples who do not know that alcohol and caffeine are liquid contraceptives, sweeteners can prevent ovulation and seemingly innocent foods such as peas, rhubarb and soya all inhibit fertility."

Aimed at those trying to conceive naturally as well as those going through IVF, Ms Dobbyn advised cutting out smoking, artificial sweeteners, alcohol, caffeine and soya in the first month. Peas and rhubarb were also banned following studies linking them to infertility.

By month two, couples should have given up all meat and cut out sugar and dairy. By the third month, consumption of eggs and fruit juices should be reduced. However, it is not all about cutting back, with couples allowed unlimited quantities of beans, pulses, organic herbs, spices and nuts from day one. Fruit and vegetables should be eaten raw to help balance the body's hormones. Would-be parents are also to lose weight if overweight, keep stress to a minimum and try to get a good night's sleep.


Pesky gene

The power of do-gooder propaganda seems unlikely to alter this:

A gene linked to obesity causes people to put on weight by keeping them hungry, scientists say. Previous research had shown that the gene, known as FTO, was strongly associated with obesity. But it was not clear whether this was to do with increasing appetite or burning calories.

The new study of 3,337 children shows that the gene's effects are due to a lack of normal appetite control. Usually the act of eating "switches off" the appetite and creates a feeling of satiety or "fullness". The FTO gene stops this happening, scientists at University College London found. Children with two copies of a high-risk version of the gene were less likely to have their appetite suppressed by eating. FTO is the first common obesity gene to be identified in Caucasian populations.

Jane Wardle, the study leader, said: "People who carry the risky variant of this gene are more vulnerable to the modern environment with big portion sizes."

The new findings are published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Oral Contraceptives increase risk of arterial plaques?

This study has recently got a bit of play on Christian sites so I infer that it must by now have reached journal publication -- but where I do not know. Anyway, the results are fairly anomalous. Even other epidemiological studies have not found the same and an experimental study in fact found the opposite. Just part of the rich natural diversity that so excites epidemiologists

A team of Belgian researchers has made the surprise discovery that women who have used oral contraceptives (OCs) for some time appear to be at increased risk of atherosclerosis in the carotid and femoral arteries. They also found that those taking the pill had three times higher C-reactive protein (CRP) levels than those not using it.

Dr Ernest Rietzschel (Ghent University, Belgium) reported the findings at the American Heart Association (AHA) 2007 Scientific Sessions last week. He told heartwire: "This is the first time that this has been documented. It was an accidental finding. We were stunned by the large elevations in CRP that you see in women taking the pill, so we then performed a safety analysis to see whether there was a link between past pill use and atherosclerosis measured by echo in both the carotid and femoral arteries. Our null hypothesis was that we would see no effect, but in hindsight that was probably naive."

He stressed, however, that this research should not mean that women should cease using oral contraceptives: "I'm certainly not advocating stopping use of the pill," he noted. First, the findings need to be replicated, "that's really important," he said, "and then we need more research. It's staggering that for a drug that is being used by 80% of women, there is so little information about the long-term safety. That's really incredible."

Asked to comment on the study for heartwire, Dr Sharonne N Hayes (Women's Heart Clinic, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN) said: "This study is important and provocative, because it raises new questions about the long-term safety of a widely used class of drugs. However, it is premature to change practice or our advice to patients for a number of reasons." These include the fact that no other studies reported so far have shown any long-term increase in cardiovascular risk with OCs, she says.

Rietzschel and colleagues started out by assessing novel risk factors for atherosclerosis in women participating in the Asklepios study, a blinded sample of men and women volunteers aged 35 to 55 years in the Belgian population who were free from overt cardiovascular disease. Rietzschel said that there has been one prior report of increased CRP in OC users, from the Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns study.

Of 1301 women (mean age 45.7 years) in Asklepios, 27.4% were taking OCs and 10.0% were taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Past OC use was much higher, however, with 81% of women having taken it for at least one year, with a median exposure of 13 years. After multivariate adjustment, women who were not taking OCs or HRT had high-sensitivity CRP of 1.0 mg/L compared with 1.2 for those currently taking HRT and 3.3 for women currently taking OCs. Effects on other inflammatory markers, such as interleukin-6, were far less pronounced, the researchers note.

"Contraceptive therapy is a major cause of CRP rise. The magnitude of CRP rise (threefold) far exceeds other population-prevalent noninfectious stimuli and is much larger than the CRP rise for HRT. Future research should take into account this effect when reporting CRP data in women, aim to qualify its biological significance, and assess the potential of CRP as a tool to select those women at high thrombotic risk under hormonal therapy," Rietzschel et al say.

This finding spurred Rietzschel and his team to look at past OC use, "something we might not have considered a plausible candidate for atherosclerosis," he explained to heartwire. After multivariate adjustment, they found the odds ratios (OR) per 10 years of OC exposure were 1.17 for carotid plaque and 1.28 for femoral plaque. They also looked at prevalence of bilateral disease as a more stringent phenotype of atherosclerosis and found ORs per 10 years of OC exposure of 1.42 for carotid plaque and 1.34 for femoral plaque.

"Use of contraceptive therapy is very common and is associated with an unexpected increase in the prevalence of carotid and femoral atherosclerosis in otherwise young, apparently healthy women. Our data suggest a 20% to 30% increased prevalence of plaque in the carotid and femoral arteries per 10 years of OC exposure. In the light of widespread and usually prolonged OC use, these results suggest OC use could be an important factor in the global atherosclerotic burden," the scientists observe.

Hayes points out, however, "All other studies on long-term OC safety, while mostly observational, have shown no increase in cardiovascular events years after stopping OCs, and these analyses have been done in very large cohorts. The cross-sectional findings of the current study need to be replicated in other populations and by other investigators to confirm the higher level of plaque observed in past OC users. And the higher plaque level must somehow be translated into higher events if it is to be clinically relevant."

Plus, she notes: "This study may not even be relevant to women currently making decisions about contraception. The OC formulations used by the women in the study early on were very different from those prescribed today (higher doses, different estrogens and progestins, different modes of delivery), so these findings, even if confirmed, may not apply to today's lower-dose pills."

In addition, she argues that pregnancy itself has many cardiovascular risks, and OCs are highly effective for the prevention of pregnancy. "Any risk/benefit analysis of OCs must be weighed against the outcomes of those who become pregnant because they do not use the therapy. The authors do not report that they compared or controlled for numbers of pregnancies when comparing OC users and nonusers. Might the risk be due not to OCs, but to fewer pregnancies? This would be interesting to explore."

While Rietzschel stresses that women should not stop taking the pill on the basis of this research, he says, "Perhaps women should be wary of taking the pill for longer than they need to. At a certain point, don't prolong it out of habit."

Women seeking oral contraception also present a unique opportunity for doctors to give advice on the prevention of cardiovascular disease at an early age, he notes. "Young women have an idea that they won't succumb to cardiovascular disease, which is entirely wrong, because more women die of cardiovascular disease than men. Maybe this is a good time to start talking with young women. Okay, you want to take the pill, but think about the long-term implications. You should stop smoking, check your weight, and be more physically active. Also, we know the pill has effects on blood pressure and lipid profiles, so these should be checked."

The pharmaceutical industry must also contribute, Rietzschel says: "We would like to ask them to develop safer pills." He says he has been approached by some OC manufacturers following his presentation last week but declined to say which ones.

At this time, it is also impossible to say whether any specific type of pill is more hazardous than any other, he noted. "We know that estrogen has a beneficial effect on lipid profiles and it is probably the progestin component of the pill that has adverse effects on lipids, but with regard to the blood-pressure rises seen, it's not clear what raises BP."

Hayes stressed to heartwire that effective alternatives to OCs are needed. "Until then, we need to have women consider all options for birth control and their associated risks (including the emotional, financial, and health risks of unintended pregnancy) and press for better research on this widely used drug class."


Study Finds Lesbians 50 Times More Likely to Self-Harm than General Population

Hard to know what the causal chain is here but it shows that Lesbians are not the paragons of mental health that feminist theory says they are. I found something similar long ago

The habit of "self-harming" is 50 times more likely to occur in lesbians than in the general population of women, a Scottish study has shown. 20 per cent of lesbian and bisexual women, of a total of 500 women surveyed in Scotland had deliberately harmed themselves in the last year, compared to 0.4 per cent of the general population.

The study, Prescription for Change, was conducted by the homosexual lobby organisation Stonewall. It also showed that five per cent of lesbian and bisexual women have attempted suicide in the last year.

Homosexual activists commonly interpret such statistics as support for the doctrine that it is the lack of "acceptance" from the non-homosexual world that causes the problems. Calum Irving, director of Stonewall Scotland, said, "For lesbian and bisexual women the experiences of prejudice, misunderstanding and at times hostility can damage long-term health and wellbeing."

But other research has shown that approaching homosexuality as a serious mental disorder also explains the severe depression, elevated levels of drug and alcohol abuse and self-destructive behaviour that are common among homosexuals.

Even though homosexuality was removed as a disorder from diagnostic manuals in the early 1970s, many in the psychiatric community maintain that homosexuality causes misery and that homosexual activity is a dangerous and emotionally degrading experience.

Dr. Rick Fitzgibbons, a principal contributor to the Catholic Medical Association's statement on "Homosexuality and Hope", told Zenit Catholic news agency that the mental disorder of homosexuality was removed from the diagnostic manuals in 1973 because of political pressure.

The other common assertion of the homosexual political lobby, that Christians hate and fear homosexuals, was refuted last month when a priest of the Russian Orthodox Church expressed his sorrow over their chronic unhappiness. Father Vsevolod Chaplin, said in an interview with newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda, "Such people are deeply unhappy".

"I know it from confessions and numerous life stories. It's not by chance that they die earlier and there are more suicides, drug addicts and alcoholics among them," he said. "The Church lovingly accepts everyone, including those who have passion for people of the same sex. But just because she loves them, she says unisexual love is a sin. A destructive sin," said Fr. Chaplin.

The Catholic Church holds that homosexuality, and any sexual activity outside of marriage, has natural consequences, regardless of religious belief. This Natural Law teaching is said to be based on reason and observation of the consequences of human behaviour.


Monday, July 28, 2008

More diet nonsense

There is no basis for any of this in the double blind studies. It is all just attention-seeking behaviour based on epidemiological speculation. And the "low-fat=good" assumption underlying most of it is KNOWN TO BE FALSE. See here, here and here. As for the water myth, there is no basis in nephrology for that either. It's just an old wive's tale. And if the Australian diet is so unhealthy, how come Australians have exceptionally long lifespans? But who cares about evidence when you have "official" wisdom to guide you?

Only one in 10 adults drank enough water to maintain their health, a study of Australians' dietary habits has found. And many Aussies were failing to hit most targets set by dietitians, according to a new healthy eating "index". Melbourne scientists have devised a 15-step checklist - called the dietary guideline index - by combining the latest recommendations from health authorities. The DGI was designed to make healthy eating easy by using scores of between 0-150. People could use the index to rate themselves in 15 categories - including fruit, vegetable and fast-food intake - worth up to 10 points each.

And by applying the DGI to the most comprehensive survey of Australians' eating habits, research leader Dr Sarah McNaughton, from Deakin University, has exposed the nation's diet secrets. Dr McNaughton said women aged 50-64 were the healthiest eaters in the country - and men aged 18-29 the most likely to neglect their health. "If you score 150, that means your diet is pretty much perfect and nobody in the survey has a perfect diet," Dr McNaughton said. "Younger people, particularly men, tend to have less healthy diets. "That can be for a whole variety of reasons, but it's often because younger people take less time to cook for themselves."

Results published in The Journal of Nutrition showed 10 per cent of Australian men and 14 per cent of women were drinking enough fluids (low-calorie soft drinks were accepted in the guidelines). However, Dr McNaughton said the most concerning result was the "very low" vegetable consumption. Just 15 per cent of men and 22 per cent of women ate five serves a day.

More than half of Aussies were also eating too many foods high in saturated fats, salt and sugar and not enough cereals and dairy. Women scraped over the line for daily fruit intake with 55 per cent eating the recommended two pieces, but only 46 per cent of men. Dr McNaughton said adults could improve their diet and enjoy better health if they identified their weaknesses using the DGI.


The return of Killer Chlorine

Numberwatch After many mind-sapping years of trawling through the morass of health scare stories, I formulated a number of laws, one of which was the Law of Beneficial Developments:
The intensity of the scaremongering attack on any new development is proportional to the level of benefit that it endows.

Unbelievably, the Chlorine Scare has returned. According to the science editor of the Daily Telegraph, Babies exposed to chlorinated water are at risk of heart problems.

The first chestnut here is the appearance of a Trojan Number, so called because it is the stratagem by which authors infiltrate their findings into the columns of the media. In this case it is an impressive 400,000, which is the number of babies said to be involved in the study. In fact, almost all of them have no part in the study at all, as they are normal, healthy births.

As I wrote in a book called Sorry, Wrong Number! in 2000, chlorine is essential to life on earth, not only in the form of its sodium salt, but as a constituent of more than more than 1500 vital compounds in plants and animals, including our digestive juices. The chlorination of drinking water has saved more human lives than any other hygienic measure.

However in 1991, Greenpeace activist Christine Houghton said: "Since its creation, chlorine has been a chemical catastrophe. It is either chlorine or us." Even by Greenpeace standards this was a pretty remarkable piece of ignorant, hysterical nonsense. When chlorination was stopped in Peru in 1991 as a result of pressure from the EPA and Greenpeace, an epidemic broke out that spread through Latin America. Some 800,000 people became ill with cholera and 6,000 people died. Millions of people are still dying all over the world because of dirty water.

The anti-chlorine movement was one of the many legacies of Rachel Carson. It was intensified by an EPA study in the mid 1980s that purported to show that one of the by-products of chlorination (trihalomethanes) was carcinogenic. This involved subjecting hapless rodents to very high concentrations. That was a classical piece of junk epidemiology, based on accidental correlation, of the sort that editors cannot resist. Take just one of the conditions mentioned:

Anencephalus is so rare that most people have never heard of it. Its frequency is less than two per ten thousand of live births, so the impressive number whittles down to something under 80 actual cases. These are then divided into at least two groups - those who are exposed to the putative cause (at an arbitrary threshold) and those who are not. So the whole claim is based on a group of less than 40 babies - unlikely to produce a significant result, even with the debased statistical standards used by modern epidemiology.

Then there is the measure of exposure itself. How much of the dreaded fluid did the pregnant women drink? How did the boffins distinguish between a thirsty mother in a low dosage area and a non-thirsty mother in a high dosage area? The other glaring defect is that this is clearly a Data Dredge, given away by the fact that three conditions are mentioned. How many others were looked at we are not told.

The abysmal standard of significance in modern epidemiology is a one in 20 chance of the result having occurred by accident. But if you look at ten different diseases, this standard means that the probability of at least one crossing a given threshold of risk level becomes 40 per cent, which should be adjusted for, but isn't. As for the threshold itself, for a variety of reasons such as confounding factors, most scientists would be looking for more than a doubling of risk before claiming significance.

Who now believes that drinking tap water causes cancer? Yet 6,000 Peruvians died because of that claim, which was subsequently withdrawn. Fortunately, such scares (and miracle breakthroughs) are now so frequent that ordinary people have become blase about them - they yawn and turn to the sports pages. But there is no accounting for what politicians will do.

Like footballers, epidemiologists talk in cliches. After a while you can predict what they are going to say:
"The biological mechanism for how these disinfection by-products may cause defects are still unknown"

"...more research needs to be carried out to determine these side-effects."

The establishment media go through the ritual of publishing this nonsense. Hardly a day goes by without at least one scare or breakthrough. They are just page fillers, but there is always the danger that someone will take them seriously. As for the epidemiologists, irresponsible is an inadequate word. Reel off a few acronyms (DDT, HRT, MMR for example) and you uncover stories of millions of unnecessary deaths and lives turned to misery, all caused by the rejection of the boons of scientific research because of mindless attacks.


Sunday, July 27, 2008

Arnie bans incorrect fat

California, a national trendsetter in all matters edible, became the first state to ban trans fats in restaurants when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill Friday to phase out their use. Under the new law, trans fats, long linked to health problems [Show us just ONE person who has been demonstrably harmed by trans-fats. It's all supposition], must be excised from restaurant products beginning in 2010, and from all retail baked goods by 2011. Packaged foods will be exempt.

New York City adopted a similar ban in 2006 - it became fully effective on July 1 - and Philadelphia, Stamford, Conn., and Montgomery County, Md., have done so as well. But having the requirement imposed on the most populous state's 88,000 restaurants, as well as its bakeries and other food purveyors, is a major gain for the movement against trans fats. That movement has been led by scientists, doctors and consumer advocates who trace the largely synthetic fat to a variety of ailments, principally heart disease. "I think the potential here is real for a far greater understanding of the harms of trans fats, and to encourage more states to do the same," Dr. Clyde Yancy, incoming president of the American Heart Association, said of the California law's enactment.

Trans fats are created by pumping hydrogen into liquid oil at high temperature, a process called partial hydrogenation. The process results in an inexpensive fat that prolongs the shelf life and appearance of packaged foods and that, many fast-food restaurants say, helps make cooked food crisp and flavorful.

But trans fats have also been found in scientific studies to lower high-density lipoproteins, the "good" cholesterol, while increasing low-density lipoproteins, the "bad" cholesterol, high levels of which contribute to the onset of heart disease, the leading cause of death in California and the nation. Dr. Yancy said a 2 percent increase in trans-fat intake could result over time in a 25 percent increase in the likelihood of developing coronary artery disease. "These are data we are just now beginning to understand," [An interesting admission!] he said. "It is pretty clear now that it was a mistake for us to embrace these fats."

Under the new law, restaurants, bakeries, delicatessens, cafeterias and other businesses classified as "food facilities" will, in the preparation of any foods, have to discontinue use of oils, margarine and shortening containing trans fats. Those purveyors will have to keep the labels on their cooking products so that the products can be inspected for trans fat, a process that will become part of the duties of local health inspectors. Violators will face fines beginning at $25 and increasing to as much as $1,000 for subsequent violations.

Trans fats are also linked to obesity, and the bill's author, Tony Mendoza, a Democratic assemblyman and former fourth-grade teacher from Southern California, said he had been inspired by the number of obese children he saw in school. "They are heavy," Mr. Mendoza said. "They eat out a lot, and you realize there are trans fats out there. You don't want kids to start off on the wrong foot."

Opposition to the move came largely from the California Restaurant Association, which argued that singling out trans fats as a singularly harmful food product was arbitrary and that a mandate would prove expensive. Further, the association said, a ban for health reasons is the purview of the federal government, not the states. "We don't doubt the health findings surrounding trans fats," said Lara Dunbar, the association's senior vice president for government affairs. "Our opposition was philosophical. Banning one product isn't necessarily the right solution." In addition, Ms. Dunbar said, many of the state's restaurants have already eliminated trans fats. "We don't think you need a mandate," she said. "Restaurants responded to a consumer demand."

Among national chains, Wendy's, KFC, Taco Bell, the Cheesecake Factory and McDonald's have all begun to move away from trans fats because of consumer concerns....

To many health policy makers, though, trans fats have become almost the enemy that cigarettes became long ago. New York's anti-trans-fat movement, led by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, is still in its early days. The first phase, which began last year, made a target of frying oils and spreads. This month, the program was extended to baked goods. Nearly all the 25,000 restaurants inspected have proved compliant, according to the city's health department. New York has also offered a Trans Fat Help Center where bakers were schooled in the use of alternative fats.


Leech revival

These critters are the bane of bushwalkers in Australia but medical uses of them are increasing

When Mehdi Jaffari was told his left carotid artery was so severely blocked he faced the risk of an imminent stroke, he turned the clock back to medieval times. The 52-year-old counsellor, from Chatswood, bought more than 35 leeches from a Victorian farmer and applied them to his body daily. Within five days, a CT angiogram showed the artery had cleared, stunning staff at Royal North Shore Hospital and his family.

Leech therapy, first documented in Greece more than 4000 years ago, is not new in Sydney. More than 50 Richardsonianus australis leeches are kept in a tank at Liverpool Hospital for use on patients who have had skin grafts or severed digits because their saliva contains hirudin, a chemical that acts as a powerful anticoagulant and vasodilator. But using them on patients with severe cardiovascular disease has not yet become established practice in Australia. "It should be, because the results have been amazing," Mr Jaffari's wife, Tracy, said yesterday. "Mehdi was able to achieve more in five days than anyone of us thought possible."

Mr Jaffari's journey began when he had four heart attacks one morning last September and was rushed to Royal North Shore Hospital for an angiogram and stenting. Four months later he was back in surgery when the stent blocked and he was told he had advanced cardiovascular damage, with his left carotid artery almost 80 per cent blocked. On the advice of his sister, a leech therapist in Iran, Mr Jaffari placed seven of them on his back, legs and neck five times a day. After five days, a scan showed the artery had almost cleared.

"I'm highly surprised that he improved so much in such a short space of time," Mr Jaffari's interventional cardiologist, Peter Hansen, said. "But I do have a degree of scepticism. Perhaps the first scan overestimated the narrowing of the artery and the second scan underestimated it. Or perhaps it was a miracle and leeches do work. I am willing to keep an open mind on this because the results were impressive."

Dr Hansen said while hirudin was known to dissolve blood clots, it was not known to dissolve plaque. "Nothing in Western medicine can make [plaque] disappear in a week, or indeed at all. Statins may reduce it but they rarely make it go away, so it's very interesting."

In 2001 an international trial involving more than 17,000 heart attack patients found that bivalirudin, a genetically engineered form of hirudin, was 10 times more effective than heparin, the most commonly used blood-thinning agent.

But anyone wanting to buy leeches privately could find it difficult, the co-ordinator of the leech program at Liverpool Hospital, Katie Laing, said yesterday. Her supply is sourced from a farm at Echuca and several times during the year she is called upon to supply hospitals throughout Australia. "For now, people may have to wait until the treatment becomes a little more orthodox," she said


Saturday, July 26, 2008

Confused British minister

Says people should not be told that it is their fault for being fat -- which is fair enough. Geneticists would say the same. But he then goes on to warn people (falsely) that fat will shorten their lives. So it appears that he DOES expect people to take responsibility for their own fatness and reduce it

Alan Johnson sparked a political row over obesity last night by accusing David Cameron of holding “Victorian” views that blamed people for being fat. The Health Secretary called for a national movement to tackle obesity after complaints that ministers had not done enough to reduce the nation’s growing waistlines. This month the Conservative leader suggested in Glasgow that the obese should take more responsibility for their lifestyles, attacking the notion that some people were “at risk” of obesity through no fault of their own.

In a speech in London to the Fabian Society, Mr Johnson said that “hectoring and lecturing” the public would not work. “Vilifying the extremely fat does not make people change their behaviour and the healthy eating message has to be delivered more intelligently,” he said. “It’s easy for politicians to stand on the sidelines accusing the impoverished, the fat and the excluded of only having themselves to blame. But before we evoke the Victorian notion of the deserving and undeserving poor . . . we should take a moment to consider how complex these issues really are.”

Instead, parents should be told that children could have their lives cut short by 11 years because of dangerous levels of fat in their arteries or around their organs, he said. Mr Johnson argued that obesity was not just an issue for Government and that everyone, from individuals to big supermarkets, should do all they could to help people to lead healthier lives. The Health Secretary said that the Government had rejected both the “nanny state” approach and the “neglectful state”, which “wags the finger in the direction of the most vulnerable families in the vague hope that they will do as they are told.”

“The Conservative Party have apparently chosen this approach,” he added. The Government was criticised last month for slow progress in tackling obesity, as well as alcohol abuse. Despite England having the most obesity among adults in Western Europe, a government strategy on the issue was published only this year, the Healthcare Commission and the Audit Commission noted.


IVF turns 30 amid steady improvements

As Louise Brown cuts her birthday cake today, chances are she won't be thinking of the 3 million babies across the world, including more than 80,000 Australians, who have followed in her footsteps. Ms Brown, who works for a shipping company in Bristol, made history when she became the world's first baby born by IVF 30 years ago, but the mother-of-one has always preferred the quiet life, and has no plans to celebrate. "I might go out with my friends or I might have a meal with the family. I'm planning on having a quiet one," she said yesterday.

But for Australian fertility experts, her birthday is cause for celebration. In three decades, IVF has evolved to the point where doctors now predict pregnancy rates could double within five years and the genetic make-up of eggs could be scanned to guarantee their success.

Within 30 years, babies could be conceived with artificial sperm and grown in man-made wombs and genetic diseases, such as Huntington's and cystic fibrosis, could be switched off using artificial chromosomes while the embryo is still in the laboratory. "The technology has been significantly refined to a point where our success rate has doubled in the past 10 years and I see it hitting 50 per cent within another five," the director of IVF Australia, Michael Chapman, said yesterday. About 41,000 cycles of IVF are performed in Australia each year, resulting in about 10,000 babies - or one in every 33 children. "When this lot of babies grows up, we will have about eight federal politicians who are IVF-lings," Professor Chapman said. "It has become so routine now and soon it will be commonplace."

The next giant leap in IVF will involve screening eggs using polarised light to assess their molecular make-up before fertilisation. About 50 per cent of eggs lack miotic spindles, preventing the cells dividing properly. The eggs can be fertilised but will never become viable pregnancies. "At the moment, we can't tell which eggs will make it and once we start routine screening, the success rates should rise and miscarriage rate drop," he said.

Poppy Kougellis, 40, was told she would never have children because her ovaries did not produce enough healthy eggs. Now a mother of 11-month-old Thomas, she spent three years trying to conceive naturally, followed by two years on IVF. On her 11th cycle of treatment, she produced only one egg and was told it had a 5 per cent chance of success. "That egg, our lone ranger, became Thomas," Ms Kougellis, now pregnant with twins, said. "We had been put in the 'too hard basket' by so many doctors that we bought a dog and resigned ourselves to it just being the three of us forever. Now we are about to become a family of five. All the heartache, tears and injections have been worth it."


Friday, July 25, 2008

Family meals reduce risky teen sex?

Hmmm..... I am inclined to think that the findings below reduce to saying that middle class people are more cautious. On the other hand, the study claims to be a study of differences between siblings. If so, that would mean that class differences are controlled for.

The idea that different siblings in the one family are treated markedly differently seems very problematic, however. Do family meals often include one sibling but not another? And if so why? Is the non-included one more rebellious to start with and does that alone account for the different degrees of promiscuity etc.? Seems likely. And how can "parental knowledge" and "parent negativity" be different from one sibling to another? Presumably it can be but why? Could be that "difficult" children tend to be excluded and again we might find it unsurprising that "difficult" children in one way behave in difficult ways on other occasions. I suspect a very large confusion of cause and effect in this study. The journal abstract is here

PARENTS who don't want their teens to engage in risky sexual behaviour should make family time a priority, a new study suggests. Adolescents who took part in family activities more often had sex less frequently, less unprotected sex, and fewer sex partners, Rebekah Levine Coley of Boston College and her colleagues found.

Most research on parenting and teen sexual behavior has simply looked at whether or not a teen has had sex, not the degree of sexual risk he or she takes, Dr Coley noted in an interview with Reuters Health. But given that two out of three US teens have sex before they turn 19, more specific information would provide a better understanding of the risks involved, Dr Coley and her team point out in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

To investigate, as well as to better define whether parental qualities influence a child's sexual behaviour rather than vice versa, Dr Coley and her team used increasingly stringent statistical techniques to analyse the results of a survey of 4950 US teens, 1058 of whom were siblings. The adolescents were 12 to 16 years old when the study began, and completed the survey every year for 3 years. By comparing parenting quality and sexual behaviour for siblings raised in the same household, Dr Coley noted, it is possible to tease out potential cause-and-effect relationships.

The more times a week that an adolescent reported having dinner with their family, "doing something religious" as a family, or having fun with their family, the less likely he or she was to engage in risky sexual behaviour, the researchers found.

However, having a parent who used "negative and psychologically controlling" behaviour increased the likelihood that a teen would be having risky sex. This includes "criticising the ideas of the adolescents, controlling and directing what they think and how they feel," Dr Coley explained. "Negative and psychologically controlling parenting behaviours may inhibit adolescents' development of self-efficacy and identity, interfere with mature and responsible decision making skills, and affect the development of healthy relationships, in turn leading to an elevated likelihood of engaging in risky behaviours," the researchers suggest.

On the other hand, they add, family activities are "centrally important supports for children, providing opportunities for emotional warmth, communication, and transmission of values and beliefs." The findings make it clear, Dr Coley said, that "what parents do with their adolescents really matters."


Viagra gives ladies a lift

These findings come from a control group study so deserve respect

DEPRESSED women who are having trouble in the bedroom are being encouraged to take the erectile dysfunction drug Viagra to improve their libido. Loss of libido is a common side effect of antidepressants and a major reason why many women stop taking medication for their depression. This is particularly problematic given that twice as many women as men are prescribed antidepressants but the most effective drugs used to combat sexual dysfunction in men are not approved for use in women.

Researchers tested Viagra on 98 women whose depression was in remission but were still experiencing sexual dysfunction such as lack of arousal or pain during sex. The women were told to take a pill one to two hours before sex for eight weeks. Half were given placebos pills which had no pharmacological effects.

Some 73 percent of the women given placebos reported no improvement with treatment while only 28 percent of the women taking Viagra said they did not notice an improvement, the study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found. Some of the women experienced headaches, flushing and indigestion but none of them withdrew from the trial because of side effects.

"By treating this bothersome treatment-associated adverse effect in patients who have been effectively treated for depression, but need to continue on their medication to avoid relapse or recurrence, patients can remain antidepressant-adherent, reduce the current high rates of premature medication discontinuation, and improve depression disease management outcomes," wrote lead author George Nurnberg of the University of New Mexico School of Medicine.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

British woman receives $1,600,000 payout for brain injury caused by fad "detox" diet

People just don't know how dangerous water intoxication can be. People die from it. It is PARTICULARLY dangerous if it is not accompanied by enough salt

A mother of two has won more than $1,600,000 at the High Court after she claimed that a radical detox diet left her brain-damaged and epileptic. Dawn Page, 52, said that she was told to drink four extra pints of water a day and reduce her salt intake to prevent fluid retention and reduce weight. Within days of going on "The Amazing Hydration Diet" she began vomiting and, less than a week after starting the diet, suffered a massive epileptic fit. She was taken to intensive care but doctors were unable to prevent permanent brain injury.

Mrs Page now suffers from epilepsy and a "cognitive deficit" that affects her memory, concentration and her ability to speak normally. She was forced to quit her job as a conference organiser, suffers from frequent mood swings and relies on her husband, Geoff, for help around the house. Mrs Page secured an $1,620,000 payout last week from Barbara Nash, the nutritionist who devised the diet, after more than six years of legal battle. Mrs Nash, who calls herself a "nutritional therapist and life coach", denies any fault and the settlement was concluded without admission of liability. Mrs Nash's insurance company will pay the damages.

In September 2001 Mrs Page paid Mrs Nash $100 for an initial consultation. She said that she was advised to drink four pints of mineral water per day as well as the tea and other fluids that she normally drank. After a few days she started vomiting but was allegedly assured by Mrs Nash that it was "all part of the detoxification process". Mrs Page, who weighed 12 stone (76kg), was even urged to increase her water intake to six pints a day and cut her salt intake further.

Mr Page said yesterday that the settlement reflected the seriousness of his wife's injuries. He said of his wife: "She was not obese or even mildly obese but, like a lot of women, Dawn liked to look after her weight and was not having much success with the normal ways of doing that. "Her life has been seriously affected, perhaps ruined, by this fad-type way of losing weight," he added. Mrs Page relies on written notes to remember basic instructions and finds it hard to recall simple information.

Mr Page, the project manager for a packaging company, covers all the bills as his wife cannot work. He said: "She can't drive and takes medication every day. And she will do so for life." Mr Page, who brought the legal action against Mrs Nash in 2001, said that the fight had been worth it. Mrs Nash, who is based in Wheatley, Oxfordshire, and has a diploma in natural nutrition, was unavailable to comment last night.

Plexus Law, the firm representing Mrs Nash, released a statement that read: "On behalf of our client, we wish to make it clear that all allegations of substandard practice made on behalf of Mrs Page in the litigation have always been, and continue to remain, firmly denied. Equally, the information contained in the medical records suggesting that Mrs Page appeared to have drunk five litres of water on the day that she was admitted to hospital, and therefore disregarded advice given by our client, were also denied by Mrs Page. "In our view, as a recognition of this, the settlement amount agreed to be paid was less than half of the total amount claimed and the compromise that was offered and accepted was on the basis of no admission of liability."


New prostate drug might not leave you prostrate

Looks good so far

Thousands of men with aggressive and incurable prostate cancer could gain years of life with a ground-breaking new drug, British researchers say. Eight out of ten patients with advanced prostate cancer - which kills 10,000 men a year - may see their tumours shrink and be relieved of pain simply by taking a daily pill even if their disease has spread around the body, the study suggests. Some men taking abiraterone have survived for more than twice as long as expected when all other treatments failed, suggesting that the most common cancer in men may in future become a manageable chronic disease. Scientists are also starting trials of the drug for sufferers of breast cancer to see if it has similar benefits.

Survival rates for common cancers such as breast and colon cancer have more than doubled in 60 years, and experts predict that, with this new drug, prostate cancer has the potential to join this list. About 35,000 Britons have prostate cancer diagnosed each year. Many of the cancers do not spread and can be managed by surgery or monitoring. Nearly all fatal cases are aggressive forms that are resistant to current treatments and are fuelled by testoster-one, the "male" sex hormone. After chemotherapy and radiotherapy have failed, the typical survival period is just one year or 18 months.

Johann de Bono, who led the study at the Institute of Cancer Research and the Royal Marsden Hospital, London, said that 250 men worldwide with advanced cases had so far taken the new drug - some for as long as 32 months, indicating that it could even tually boost survival by many years. The study, published today in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, found benefits for 21 patients with advanced prostate cancer. Trials are continuing.

Dr de Bono said he hoped that the new drug could be licensed and available for treatment of advanced disease within three years. He suggested that it could eventually make chemotherapy obsolete. "This is potentially a major step forward," he said. "These men have very aggressive prostate cancer, which is exceptionally difficult to treat and almost always fatal. We hope that abiraterone will eventually offer them real hope of an effective way of managing their condition and prolonging their lives."

Karol Sikora, a leading cancer specialist, described the study as a "significant piece of work". He said: "We now can make people live with cancer. It's not curable but we can keep people alive to the extent that they will die of something else. Most people affected by cancer are over 60, so if we can give them an extra 10 to 15 years that is as good as can be. We have to take into account the variability of some forms of hormone-driven cancer - this is not 100 per cent effective - but to be able to treat some of the worst cases, and grant them extra years of life, is a very positive thing."

Advanced prostate cancer is typically treated with a form of chemical or surgical castration to block production of the male hormones. Abiraterone blocks the generation of these hormones in the testes and elsewhere in the body, including the generation of hormones in the cancer itself.

The pill decreased the size of tumours in 70 to 80 per cent of men with advanced prostate cancer, the researchers said. Patients also recorded large falls in prostate specific antigen levels in the blood - a key indicator of prostate cancer.

"Current treatments can be horrible, and carry side-effects such as loss of libido, but in some cases the cancer seems immune to therapy and carries on accelerating," Dr de Bono said. "We believe that the cancer cells can make their own hormone `fuel' to grow and survive. We believe we now have a drug that can block the ability of the cancer to make that fuel."

An international study aims to recruit 1,200 men with advanced prostate cancer. The drug is also being used to treat breast cancer in women through a preliminary trial funded by Cancer Research UK.

Dr de Bono said: "It was able to help patients whose cancer had spread to the bones, liver, even lung. A number of patients were able to stop taking morphine for the relief of bone pain, and they got their quality of life back. In the wider context we eventually aim to make chemotherapy obsolete."

Malcolm Mason, Cancer Research's prostate cancer expert, said that the results were exciting but the studies were small and it was too early to say what role the drug might have in treating those with earlier stages of cancer.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Husbands make women fat

So women should give up marriage?? It's all anecdotal anyway. I could equally make an argument that marriage assists slimness. There are plenty of single fatties around

WOMEN who pile on the pounds once they get married and can't seem to stick to diets can now blame their weight worries on their husbands. Experts say a husband is more of a hindrance than a help in a wife's battle of the bulge. "For some women, marriage definitely can be fattening," says Dr Brian Steadman, a leading British authority on nutrition. "It's hard enough for them to stick to good eating habits when they're single, but they can find it impossible after they're married.

"For a start, they've got to prepare food for two people, and it gets worse when children come along. Suddenly, she is constantly thinking about food - buying it, cooking it, fixing snacks and meals at different times of the day. And if the husband doesn't need to diet, then with all the best intentions in the world, the poor woman is going to find it very tough preparing big wholesome meals for the family and low-calorie snacks for herself."

Dr Richard B. Stuart, an American authority on slimming and nutrition, and former psychological director of Weight Watchers International, the author of Act Thin, Stay Thin, agrees. "If a woman can't stay on a diet, it could easily be her husband's fault," he says. "In fact, a husband might subconsciously be encouraging his wife to remain fat, and make it harder for her to lose weight." And he gives these reasons why this could be so:

If he feels in any way insecure in his relationship, then he reasons that a plump wife is less likely to leave him or make other men jealous.

If he has a low sex drive then having a fat wife is a very good excuse for lack of interest or potency.

If he's the kind who isn't prepared to put a lot of effort into the marriage, then it will be much easier for him to keep her "fat" than "happy".

If his wife is a failure as a dieter, it "allows" him to have his workaholic schedule or an affair.

And there are many other ways that a husband, perhaps unwittingly, can hinder his wife's ambitions to keep her weight down. "For instance, she may ask for his help in her battle of the bulge, only to be told, 'Sure I'll help, but we're not giving up pizza night'," Dr Stuart says. "Or he might give her a box of chocolates as a 'reward' for losing 1«kg. Some husbands even turn their support into competition, with the wife as loser. I know of one who agreed to go jogging with his wife, only to leave a trail of dust in her face every time as he sped off at breakneck speed."

However, there are also some reasons why a wife herself might prefer to be fat. "She may find it harder to avoid sex with her husband (if she were thin), or fear how she will handle the sudden attention from other men," Dr Stuart says. "And with the 'fat' cover-up gone, she may be forced to confront some painful issues."

According to a British study, despite fears of being too tubby, 62 per cent of women piled on the kilos when they fell in love. The results of the Gallup poll also show that one in four women hates being seen naked during sex for fear of turning their man off. And 90 per cent are unhappy about love-making because they believe they are overweight.

The biggest problem area is tummy bulges. A third of married women feel they are being judged by their bodies. "Putting on weight has a more damaging effect on women than men," Dr Stuart says. "As a woman's weight goes up, her self-esteem goes down. "While men get ego satisfaction from their jobs, women still associate their self-worth with their appearance.

"As husbands, many men can, without realising it, add to a woman's problems with her weight. Some often respond to their wives as if they were men, lending the kind of support a male would want, such as a pep talk. "Not only does a woman want different kinds of support, but her needs change during the course of her weight loss. He adds that a wife trying to keep her weight down should help her husband to help her. "Be specific. Should he talk about your progress? Reward you? Praise you? Keep the dialogue going."


Useless official food warnings

So were those tomatoes that grocery stores and consumers dumped two weeks ago really contaminated with salmonella bacteria? Or were hot peppers the real culprits in an outbreak of food-borne diseases that have sickened 1,200 people in 42 states?

As the Sacramento Bee's Jim Downing found last week, no one really knows for sure. Government scientists tracing the source of such illnesses rely on the most unreliable of sources: sick people's memory of what they ate last night, last week or two weeks ago.

Federal Food and Drug Administration investigators have not yet found any evidence of contamination on actual tomatoes. Nonetheless, based on the advice of health officials in New Mexico where the first outbreaks were detected and on the hazy memories of sickened people, the FDA issued a warning June 7, advising consumers to avoid red Roma, red round and red plum tomatoes. The produce industry estimates losses from the tomato scare could run as high as $250 million.

The FDA has since reconsidered its warning. Maybe it wasn't tomatoes. Maybe it was raw jalape¤os or serrano peppers. So hot peppers were added to the suspect list last week, and more produce was dumped.

Epidemiologist Michael Osterholm, one of the nation's leading experts on food-borne diseases, blames the confusion in part on a hodgepodge of state and local public health systems that are ill-equipped in terms of training or resources to do the sophisticated analysis necessary to reliably trace the source of food-borne illnesses. He thinks Congress should set national standards for epidemiologists who trace food-borne illnesses similar to those in place for criminologists who examine evidence from crime scenes.

Source. (A story here says that peppers rather than tomatoes were behind the salmonella outbreak).

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

How smart are 'smart drugs'?

There's a buzz about modafinil, meant to make you brighter and more energized. But does it work, and at what cost?

Is your memory so perforated that you fear early-onset Alzheimer’s? Your attention so centrifugal that you’ve self-diagnosed attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)? Perhaps you don’t have time to sleep, or maybe you would just like to function as a super-you. The sci-fi solution we have all been waiting for is already here, and it’s circulating in student unions and school. These days, the kids are all on “smart drugs”.

A group of pharmaceuticals designed for sufferers of narcolepsy, Alzheimer’s and ADHD, smart drugs are increasingly being used “off label” (unsupervised, as a lifestyle choice) by healthy people, who procure them from online pharmacies, friendly physicians and illicit prescription sales. “This stuff is being passed around all the time,” says one male A-level student with something of a smart-drug habit — “this stuff” largely being Ritalin, usually prescribed for children with ADHD, and Modafinil, which is used to treat narcolepsy. Students are rejoicing and cramming for exams with smart-drug- fuelled all-nighters. One told me that he buys his from a mate who sells on his larger-than-necessary prescription; another offered to put me in touch with her “very kind doctor”.

The government, meanwhile, is sweating. It recently commissioned a report on brain science that concluded more work is needed. What students and the government both know is that in Ritalin improves attention, memory and cognitive flexibility in healthy subjects; Modafinil improves attention, memory, planning and decision- making and leaves you in a state of wakefulness without the wired bit, liability of addiction or “obvious toxic effects”. So what’s not to like?

Imbued with visions of a new, improved me, I visit that conveniently unregulated online pharmacy. Ritalin costs $116 for 10 pills; Modafinil, $20 for 10. No questions asked, no electrocardiograph tests required. I plump for cheapo Modafinil. My sister, a doctor, phones with a warning: “I’ve been discussing your drugs trial with a colleague, and we don’t think it’s safe to experiment with your brain like this.” I fall silent as she explains there are scant statistics on Modafinil’s long-term effects, even fewer on the effects on healthy subjects. Plus, as with all neurological drugs, there can be atypical side effects. And a new report claims three in five medicines bought online are fake, some dangerously so.

A dodgy package arrives in the post. Wrapped in low-grade manila, wonkily stamped “Mumbai — India”, is a loose strip of 10 x 200mg legit-looking Modafinil pills (the website was recommended by a genuine American pharmacy that refused to ship to the UK). There are no instructions, no warnings of harmful contraindications, only this: “Dosage: as directed by the neurologist/ psychiatrist/specialist.” I turn to my old friend the internet to check the dose (one or two pills) and side effects (insomnia, decreased appetite, anxiety, headache and rapid heartbeat). Some, of course, may see these cons as pros.

First thing the next morning, down it goes, and I await the “eureka!” moment. It never comes, but an hour later, I feel undoubtedly alert. Actually, I feel pretty normal (no cleverer, no less hungry), if a little edgy. A persistent, dry headache develops, like I have drunk one too many coffees (after all, caffeine and Modafinil both stimulate the central nervous system), but where my attention usually drifts, today it can’t. Streams of consciousness babble endlessly; I feel spirited and industrious. The steady energy endures with no 4pm fogs, and I fantasise about Thatcher-style productivity. Perhaps this is the key to the mythological 25-hour day?

There are stories of off-label users finally conquering their intellectual Everests (lifelong battles with War and Peace); the American poker player Paul Phillips claimed that when he was prescribed Modafinil, it helped him win more than $3.4m. One A-level student told me: “On Ritalin and Modafinil, no matter what you’re doing, you’re interested. I studied politics, which usually I couldn’t give a toss about. Four hours in, you have the choice to work or not, and you prefer to work. I screwed around all year and then worked really hard for my exams — on drugs. Some say it’s cheating, but it’s not like in sport, where you can be banned for taking steroids.” According to the Department of Health, buying these drugs from illegal organisations is not against the law, as they are legal.

It is time to find out what is going on in my head, so I call the Modafinil expert, Trevor Robbins, professor of cognitive neuroscience at Cambridge University and one of the academics behind the government’s recent brain-science report. He is unambiguously excited. “It works like a mental manager, optimising the performance of several different faculties,” he says. “It’s great on tasks requiring reflection and planning, plus it inhibits impulsiveness — and blurting out the wrong thing.” Does he see it as cheating? “Coffee is a cognition enhancer,” he argues. “People don’t think of them as the same, but they’re both chemicals. It’s like taking a vitamin pill.” Except that Modafinil is much more sophisticated and active. But where was super-me?

“Modafinil operates on an inverted U-shaped curve,” Robbins says. “If you’re already functioning at the top of it, you can only go down.” Depressing. He adds that some may not be genetically optimal for enhancement. Has Robbins tried Modafinil? “Never. I perform optimally already.”

Disturbingly, nobody knows exactly how Modafinil works, although it’s generally considered safe (provided, of course, you’re not taking the fakes). Made by Cephalon, it’s been licensed for narcolepsy (as Provigil) for 10 years in the UK. In America, where the licensing regulations are more lenient, plenty of academics have it on repeat prescription. Cephalon refuses to answer my questions about off-label use, saying it has no direct involvement with tests on healthy volunteers, nor any plans for over-the-counter sales.

It was after dark that Modafinil’s potential for 48-hour wakefulness appeared — annoyingly. (I was only after the “smart” bit.) Wide-eyed at 2am, I reached for a sleeping pill. And another. Predisposed to poor sleep, I ended up taking three times the normal dose, yet getting barely two hours’ kip.

Many claim to sleep fine and that there is no sleep debt after all-nighters, provided you get eight hours’ kip the following night. I’m not convinced. The next day, I’m still alert, but I need an extra jolt of caffeine. By 6pm, I’m broken. I see that upper- downer cycle winking at me: Exhausted? Take this little pill. Can’t sleep? Try this.

And I did, a few days later, this time on a hangover. With the stuffing already knocked out of me, I wondered whether Modafinil could be the ultimate hangover cure. But no — I had the same sleep issues (none, all night) and a whole new hangover to deal with. The day after, I felt heavy, woolly and strung out, with a stubborn, brittle headache — not dissimilar to the aftermath of a drugs bender. Unsurprisingly.

According to the US military, sequential dosing has diminishing returns: Modafinil can work for 48 hours, but then people need sleep. After all, people eventually die from sleep deprivation. As far as I can work out, it doesn’t do to mess with your circadian cycle: power pills are no substitute for real sleep. But in these time-obsessed days, off-label use is predicted to rise, and more cognition-enhancing drugs are in development. I haven’t touched my stash since, but if I were a truckie or on the eve of exams, I could be tempted. But you would be foolish to treat smart drugs like the new coffee.


New hope for Alzheimer’s patients?

A drug injected into the spine has produced rapid improvements in verbal fluency in a trial of 12 patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Etanercept (Enbrel), an antiTNF drug developed to treat rheumatoid arthritis, transformed the behaviour of some patients in a matter of minutes, the researchers say.

The results, published in BMC Neurology, are the latest in a series of bold claims made by Edward Tobinick, from a private medical group in Los Angeles, and Hyman Gross, of the University of Southern California. Their theory is that TNF is used in the brain to regulate the transmission of nerve impulses. They say that in Alzheimer’s high levels of TNF interfere with this process, so suppressing TNF with Enbrel should cause a reduction in Alzheimer’s symptoms.

BMC Neurology is accessible on the internet and includes a video showing the rapid improvements in language skills. Dr Tobinick said: “There are limitations to the data presented; the clinical trial was open label and not controlled. These caveats notwithstanding, the scientific rationale for the further investigation of antiTNF treatment of Alzheimer’s disease is compelling.”

Alzheimer’s experts have been sceptical of Dr Tobinick’s research. They say that Enbrel, even when injected into the spine, might not reach the brain in sufficient quantities to have any effect. Dr Tobinick has called for a full-scale trial of his methods.


Monday, July 21, 2008

Study finds lasting benefit in banned mushroom drug?

Delusions are a "spiritual" experience? The side effects would normally be considered too severe for pharmaceutical use and there was no control group to show that the alleged good effects were anything but placebo

In 2002, at a Johns Hopkins University laboratory, a business consultant named Dede Osborn took a psychedelic drug as part of a research project. She felt like she was taking off. She saw colors. Then it felt like her heart was ripping open. But she called the experience joyful as well as painful, and says that it has helped her to this day.

Various species of mushrooms native to tropical and subtropical regions of South America, Mexico, and the United States produce the compound responsible for the effect of "magic mushrooms."

"I feel more centered in who I am and what I'm doing," said Osborn, now 66, of Providence, R.I. "I don't seem to have those self-doubts like I used to have. I feel much more grounded (and feel that) we are all connected."

Scientists reported Tuesday that when they surveyed volunteers 14 months after they took the drug, most said they were still feeling and behaving better because of the experience. Two thirds of them also said the drug had produced one of the five most spiritually significant experiences they'd ever had.

The drug, psilocybin, is found in socalled "magic mushrooms." It's illegal, but it h as been used in religious ceremonies for centuries.

The study involved 36 men and women during an eight-hour lab visit. It's one of the few such studies of hallucinogens in the past 40 years, since research was largely shut down after widespread recreational abuse of such drugs in the 1960s. The project made headlines in 2006 when researchers published their report on how the volunteers felt just two months after taking the drug. The new study followed them up a year after that.

Experts emphasize that people should not try psilocybin on their own because it could be harmful. Even in the controlled setting of the laboratory, nearly a third of participants felt significant fear under the effects of the drug. Without proper supervision, someone could be harmed, researchers said.

Osborn, in a telephone interview, recalled a powerful feeling of being out of control during her lab experience. "It was ... like taking off, I'm being lifted up," she said. Then came "brilliant colors and beautiful patterns, just stunningly gorgeous, more intense than normal reality."

And then, the sensation that her heart was tearing open. "It would come in waves," she recalled. "I found myself doing Lamaze-type breathing as the pain came on." Yet "it was a joyful, ecstatic thing at the same time, like the joy of being alive," she said. She compared it to birthing pains. "There was this sense of relief and joy and ecstasy when my heart was opened."

With further research, psilocybin (pronounced SILLohSYbin) may prove useful in helping to treat alcoholism and drug dependence, and in aiding seriously ill patients as they deal with psychological distress, said study lead author Roland Griffiths of Johns Hopkins. Griffiths also said that despite the spiritual characteristics reported for the drug experiences, the study said nothing about whether God exists. "Is this God in a pill? Absolutely not," he said.

The experiment was funded in part by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The results were published online Tuesday by the Journal of Psychopharmacology.

Fourteen months after taking the drug, 64 percent of the volunteers said they still felt at least a moderate increase in well-being or life satisfaction, in terms of things like feeling more creative, self-confident, flexible and optimistic. And 61 percent reported at least a moderate behavior change in what they considered positive ways.

That second question didn't ask for details, but elsewhere the questionnaire answers indicated lasting gains in traits like being more sensitive, tolerant, loving and compassionate.

Researchers didn't try to corroborate what the participants said about their own behavior. But in the earlier analysis at two months after the drug was given, researchers said family and friends backed up what those in the study said about behavior changes. Griffiths said he has no reason to doubt the answers at 14 months.

Charles Grob, a professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the HarborUCLA Medical Center, called the new work an important follow-up to the first study. He said it is helping to reopen formal study of psychedelic drugs. Grob is on the board of the Heffter Research Institute, which promotes studies of psychedelic substances and helped pay for the new work.


How two slices of brown bread a day protects pregnant women against life threatening pre-eclampsia

Utter crap. Womern who eat trendy food are probably middle class and hence healthier anyway

Eating only two slices of brown bread a day could help pregnant women stave off pre-eclampsia. Increasing fibre intake during the first three months of pregnancy can reduce the risk of the life-threatening condition by more than half, research shows.

Pre-eclampsia, which is characterised by high blood pressure, affects one in ten expectant mothers and occurs late in the pregnancy. If it develops into full eclampsia it can endanger the life of the mother and baby. In some cases, the baby may have to be delivered prematurely. If the condition worsens further, women can suffer fits.

Dr Chunfang Qiu carried out a study of 1,538 women's diets before conception and during the first three months of pregnancy. He found those whose diets were rich in grain, fruit and vegetables - more than 21.2g of fibre a day - were two-thirds less likely to develop the condition than those who ate less than 11.9g. Dr Qiu, who reports his findings on the American Journal of Hypertension website, said adding 5g of fibre to your diet is the equivalent of eating two slices of wholegrain bread.

Dr Qiu, of the Swedish Medical Centre, in Seattle, said: 'These results suggest the important health benefits of increased fibre consumption before and during early pregnancy.'


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Scientific Evidence Shows Secondhand Smoke Is No Danger

Amazing EPA malpractice throws all their work into doubt. They are a political, not a scientific body

Exposure to secondhand smoke (SHS) is an unpleasant experience for many nonsmokers, and for decades was considered a nuisance. But the idea that it might actually cause disease in nonsmokers has been around only since the 1970s. Recent surveys show more than 80 percent of Americans now believe secondhand smoke is harmful to nonsmokers.

A 1972 U.S. surgeon general's report first addressed passive smoking as a possible threat to nonsmokers and called for an anti-smoking movement. The issue was addressed again in surgeon generals' reports in 1979, 1982, and 1984. A 1986 surgeon general's report concluded involuntary smoking caused lung cancer, but it offered only weak epidemiological evidence to support the claim. In 1989 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was charged with further evaluating the evidence for health effects of SHS. In 1992 EPA published its report, "Respiratory Health Effects of Passive Smoking," claiming SHS is a serious public health problem, that it kills approximately 3,000 nonsmoking Americans each year from lung cancer, and that it is a Group A carcinogen (like benzene, asbestos, and radon).

The report has been used by the tobacco-control movement and government agencies, including public health departments, to justify the imposition of thousands of indoor smoking bans in public places.

EPA's 1992 conclusions are not supported by reliable scientific evidence. The report has been largely discredited and, in 1998, was legally vacated by a federal judge. Even so, the EPA report was cited in the surgeon general's 2006 report on SHS, where then-Surgeon General Richard Carmona made the absurd claim that there is no risk-free level of exposure to SHS. For its 1992 report, EPA arbitrarily chose to equate SHS with mainstream (or firsthand) smoke. One of the agency's stated assumptions was that because there is an association between active smoking and lung cancer, there also must be a similar association between SHS and lung cancer.

But the problem posed by SHS is entirely different from that found with mainstream smoke. A well-recognized toxicological principle states, "The dose makes the poison." Accordingly, we physicians record direct exposure to cigarette smoke by smokers in the medical record as "pack-years smoked" (packs smoked per day times the number of years smoked). A smoking history of around 10 pack-years alerts the physician to search for cigarette-caused illness. But even those nonsmokers with the greatest exposure to SHS probably inhale the equivalent of only a small fraction (around 0.03) of one cigarette per day, which is equivalent to smoking around 10 cigarettes per year.

Another major problem is that the epidemiological studies on which the EPA report is based are statistical studies that can show only correlation and cannot prove causation. One statistical method used to compare the rates of a disease in two populations is relative risk (RR). It is the rate of disease found in the exposed population divided by the rate found in the unexposed population. An RR of 1.0 represents zero increased risk. Because confounding and other factors can obscure a weak association, in order even to suggest causation a very strong association must be found, on the order of at least 300 percent to 400 percent, which is an RR of 3.0 to 4.0. For example, the studies linking direct cigarette smoking with lung cancer found an incidence in smokers of 20 to around 40 times that in nonsmokers, an association of 2000 percent to 4000 percent, or an RR of 20.0 to 40.0.

An even greater problem is the agency's lowering of the confidence interval (CI) used in its report. Epidemiologists calculate confidence intervals to express the likelihood a result could happen just by chance. A CI of 95 percent allows a 5 percent possibility that the results occurred only by chance. Before its 1992 report, EPA had always used epidemiology's gold standard CI of 95 percent to measure statistical significance. But because the U.S. studies chosen for the report were not statistically significant within a 95 percent CI, for the first time in its history EPA changed the rules and used a 90 percent CI, which doubled the chance of being wrong.

This allowed it to report a statistically significant 19 percent increase of lung cancer cases in the nonsmoking spouses of smokers over those cases found in nonsmoking spouses of nonsmokers. Even though the RR was only 1.19--an amount far short of what is normally required to demonstrate correlation or causality--the agency concluded this was proof SHS increased the risk of U.S. nonsmokers developing lung cancer by 19 percent.

In November 1995 after a 20-month study, the Congressional Research Service released a detailed analysis of the EPA report that was highly critical of EPA's methods and conclusions. In 1998, in a devastating 92-page opinion, Federal Judge William Osteen vacated the EPA study, declaring it null and void. He found a culture of arrogance, deception, and cover-up at the agency. Osteen noted, "First, there is evidence in the record supporting the accusation that EPA 'cherry picked' its data. ... In order to confirm its hypothesis, EPA maintained its standard significance level but lowered the confidence interval to 90 percent. This allowed EPA to confirm its hypothesis by finding a relative risk of 1.19, albeit a very weak association. ... EPA cannot show a statistically significant association between [SHS] and lung cancer."

The judge added, "EPA publicly committed to a conclusion before the research had begun; adjusted established procedure and scientific norms to validate its conclusion; and aggressively utilized its authority to disseminate findings to establish a de facto regulatory scheme to influence public opinion."

In 2003 a definitive paper on SHS and lung cancer mortality was published in the British Medical Journal. It is the largest and most detailed study ever reported. The authors studied more than 35,000 California never-smokers over a 39-year period and found no statistically significant association between exposure to SHS and lung cancer mortality.

Propaganda Trumps Science

The 1992 EPA report is an example of the use of epidemiology to promote belief in an epidemic instead of to investigate one. It has damaged the credibility of EPA and has tainted the fields of epidemiology and public health.

In addition, influential anti-tobacco activists, including prominent academics, have unethically attacked the research of eminent scientists in order to further their ideological and political agendas.

The abuse of scientific integrity and the generation of faulty "scientific" outcomes (through the use of pseudoscience) have led to the deception of the American public on a grand scale and to draconian government overregulation and the squandering of public money.

Millions of dollars have been spent promoting belief in SHS as a killer, and more millions of dollars have been spent by businesses in order to comply with thousands of highly restrictive bans, while personal choice and freedom have been denied to millions of smokers. Finally, and perhaps most tragically, all this has diverted resources away from discovering the true cause(s) of lung cancer in nonsmokers.


Brain shrinks faster with less stimulation

Brain scans have revealed that people who do not engage in complex mental activity have twice the shrinkage in a key part of the brain in old age. The finding sheds more light on the link between lifestyle and dementia, and adds strength to the evidence that mental gymnastics, like puzzles and new languages, stave off ageing diseases.

"We've got strong evidence here that people who use their brains more have less brain shrinkage," said Dr Michael Valenzuela, from the school of psychiatry at the University of NSW. "I hope people take this as a further call to arms to get out there and use their brains, get engaged in anything from tai chi to world travel, in the knowledge that it may help delay or prevent the onset of dementia."

Mental activity has been found to delay the onset of the degenerative brain diseases, such as Huntington's, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, in large population studies.

Dr Valenzuela and his team were investigating the reasons behind this "use it or lose it" principle by studying the brains of 60-year-olds over three years and testing their lifetime mental agility with questionnaires. Of the 50 people studied, those who had been more mentally active over their lives had a larger hippocampus, an important memory centre in the brain. Critically, over the three-year period the area shrank at half the rate of those who had lower mental activity.

"This is a significant finding because a small hippocampus is a specific risk factor for developing Alzheimer's disease," said Dr Valenzuela, whose work is published in the journal PLoS ONE. He said while many drug companies were trying to find a pharmaceutical target to prevent the shrinkage of the hippocampus, the good news is that people can help themselves. "Our prior research shows the risk for dementia is quite malleable, even into late life," the researcher said. "It is vital that everyone is involved in cognitive, social and physical activities in late life such as dancing, tai chi, sailing, travelling and learning a new language, for example."


Saturday, July 19, 2008

Acupuncture useless

Infertile women who spend hundreds of pounds on acupuncture during IVF treatment are doing nothing to improve their chances of having a baby, the most extensive review of the evidence yet conducted has found. Acupuncture has no effect at all on pregnancy rates following IVF, according to a study that has examined all the high-quality trials to investigate its use by fertility clinics.

The findings, from a team at Guy's and St Thomas's Hospital in London, will dismay thousands of infertility patients, among whom acupuncture has become the most popular complementary therapy. While no official figures on its use are kept, demand is so great that several fertility clinics, such as Hammersmith Hospital in London, have set up on-site acupuncture services for their patients. Costs vary, but the Hammersmith unit charges $480 for an "IVF package" of four acupuncture sessions.

The new research, led by Sesh Sunkara, is a meta-analysis, in which the results of many high-quality randomised controlled trials are pooled to provide a more complete picture of a medical procedure's effectiveness. She said that while she had been open-minded about acupuncture before starting the investigation, she felt that she could not recommend it to patients. "If women come to me and ask if they should have acupuncture, I have to say there is no evidence that it helps," she told the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology conference in Barcelona. "Women are investing hope, energy and time in something that has not shown a definite benefit.

"The reason we chose to do this was that in our IVF clinic, every day we have patients who ask whether they should have acupuncture to improve their success rate. There have been all sorts of papers saying that sticking pins and needles increases the pregnancy rate, which have been widely reported in the media, and we are looking at women who are very vulnerable, who want to do everything possible to increase their pregnancy chances. "We wanted to look at this in an unbiased, open-minded way, to help us advise our patients. We wanted to know whether we should be doing acupuncture routinely and setting up a service in our clinic, or whether we should be advising people that there is no evidence that it works."

In the study, Dr Sunkara identified 83 trials in the medical literature, of which 13 were found to be of suitable quality to be included in the meta-analysis. The others were rejected either because they were commentary articles that did not include data, or because they were inappropriately designed.

Pregnancy rate and live birth rate were the only outcomes considered, and the results showed that acupuncture had no effect on either, whether it was used during embryo transfer or for pain relief while eggs were collected.

The research contradicts a similar meta-analysis that was published in the British Medical Journal in February, which suggested that acupuncture can improve pregnancy rates by as much as 65 per cent if performed when embryos are transferred to the womb.

Scientists behind the new work said that the BMJ study had overlooked a number of good studies that reached negative conclusions. Professor Peter Braude, who supervised the Guy's and St Thomas' team, said: "The BMJ paper didn't include all the studies, and if you include the negative ones there is no effect. We can't turn around and say it does not work, but there is no evidence it does and hand on heart we can't come out and recommend it."

Dr Sunkara said that more large randomised clinical trials of acupuncture in IVF were needed to settle the issue.

Paul Robin, the chairman of the Acupuncture Society, said: "I'm really surprised by these findings. I've been treating people for 20 years and in my experience treatment does seem to improve their chances of becoming pregnant. This study has shown that there's no proof that acupuncture can help - so that suggests that there should be lots more studies to examine the question. I'm convinced it can help."

Other studies that have claimed a benefit for acupuncture have hypothesised that it helps with relaxation during embryo transfer, which may boost the chances of a successful implantation and pregnancy. It has also been suggested that the therapy may increase blood flow to the womb.


CA: Legislature approves bill banning trans fats

California is poised to become the first state in the nation to ban restaurants and other food facilities from using trans fats, which are known to increase the risk of heart disease, under a bill approved by the state Legislature Monday and sent to the governor. The measure, passed with a bare majority, comes two weeks after a similar ban in New York City became fully effective. California doctor and consumer groups support the law, while restaurant groups have offered a lukewarm response. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has not taken a position, a spokesman said.

Assemblyman Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia (Los Angeles County), who wrote AB97, said the measure is intended to promote the health of Californians. "When it comes to heart disease and diabetes, communities of color are leading the way," Mendoza said. "I figured that the use of trans fats in our restaurants is a leading contributor to that."

Mendoza's bill would require restaurants, hospitals and facilities with food-preparation areas to remove oils, shortenings and margarines with trans fats by Jan. 1, 2010, except for use in deep frying for dough and batter. Bakers would be given an extra year to figure out how to make goods free of partial hydrogenation. By Jan. 1, 2011, food preparation sites would have to be eliminate all ingredients with trans fats or face fines from $25 to $1,000. The bill exempts public school cafeterias, which must be trans fat free under a law that takes effect at the start of the coming year.

Mendoza's bill defines trans fat free as containing 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving, and the law would not apply to packaged goods, which cross state lines and are subject to FDA regulation. The bill also allows local governments to create trans fat ordinances, such as San Francisco's voluntary plan under which restaurants that pass a $250 inspection will be awarded a decal indicating that they are trans fat free. The city's law takes effect this month.

New York City's law has been a success, said Dr. Sonia Angell, director of the New York Health Department's Cardiovascular Disease Prevention and Control program. The department began phasing in a ban on artificial trans fats in December 2006, with the law fully in force on July 1. "At this point, all inspections have been going quite smoothly," Angell said. "Compliance has been at 98 percent. The evidence is very clear that trans fats are dangerous and very replaceable."

Dari Shamtoob, owner of the popular - and trans-fat-free - King Pin Donuts near the UC Berkeley campus, said he wonders why Berkeley has not implemented a law like New York City's. He fully supports a California ban. "I don't know what's stopped them, but these days they should," he said, "especially for the students. It's very important." Shamtoob began experimenting with oils free of trans fats in 2005 and perfected his recipes in 2006. He is waiting to buy a soybean oil that promises to be cholesterol free as well as trans fat free.

The switch increased King Pin's expenses, but the cost gap between the oils is closing. At first, Shamtoob said, trans-fat-free palm oil cost him 100 percent more than partially hydrogenated oil. Now the difference is 15 percent....

Meanwhile, California counties are worried that the bill contains no funding for implementation and enforcement, said Justin Malan, executive director of the California Conference of Directors of Environmental Health. "The thing in enforcement is that it's difficult to verify the absence of trans fat in hundreds of thousands of different products," Malan said. Adding requirements to the inspection process without financial support will result in cursory inspections, Malan said.

Legislators who voted against the bill said they prefer incentives rather than forced regulation. "The average population is mature enough to make their own decisions," said Sen. Sam Aanestad, R-Grass Valley (Nevada County). "I don't believe government was formed to tell citizens what they can and cannot do."

But attorney Stephen Joseph of Tiburon, a leader in the battle against trans fats, says now is the time for regulation. "The public has shown in survey after survey that they want this," he said. "I haven't heard a complaint from a company in years."

Joseph has sued McDonald's and Kraft Foods regarding trans fat information disclosure and use, and also led a successful, voluntary campaign in Tiburon to eliminate trans fats from restaurant kitchens. He views the elimination of trans fats as a form of consumer liberation rather than restriction. "Customers don't notice the difference. There's no loss of freedom of choice here. It's not freedom of choice for the customer when a restaurant owner puts something in the food and doesn't tell the customer," he said.