Friday, February 13, 2009

Food Fascists target tots

And where are the controlled studies to support this superstitious nonsense?

Children from the age of 2 should switch from full-fat milk to help to prevent deaths from heart disease in adult life. The advice from Rosemary Hignett, head of nutrition at the Food Standards Agency, is part of a 3.5 million pound campaign to persuade people to cut their intake of saturated fat.

Families are eating too many biscuits, cakes, chocolate, crisps, red meat, cheese and cream, the FSA says. It aims to bring a change of behaviour in families. Most nurseries currently prefer to give children full-fat milk because parents believe it is the best option for the under-5s.

Ms Hignett, however, said that levels of calcium - which is important for growing children and helps to strengthen their bones - were the same in lower-fat as in whole-fat milk. The Schools Food Trust already recommends semi-skimmed for pupils in primary and secondary schools.

Men and women are also being urged by the agency to choose low-fat milk and eat less cheese to reduce the chances of a heart attack. But Gwyn Jones, the chairman of the National Farmers' Union dairy board, said: "What the FSA does not talk about is exercise and the need for people to lead more active lives rather than just cutting intakes."


Brain-training games 'do more harm than good'

Brain-training computer games could do more harm than good, researchers have warned. The popularity of the games, which can be played on hand-held consoles by firms such as Nintendo, are also unlikely to help keep Alzheimer's at bay.

If healthy older users neglect the proven benefits of physical exercise in favour of the games then they could be harming their health, according to a study commissioned by US health organisation Lifespan and published in the health journal Alzheimer's & Dementia. It found "no evidence... brain exercise programmes delay or slow progression of cognitive changes in healthy elderly."

Researchers also concluded that more research was needed into the long-term impact of brain training games, which are advertised in high profile campaigns fronted by Nicole Kidman, Julie Walters and Patrick Stewart among others.

The study looked at trials undertaken since 1992 on the impact of brain exercises, known as cognitive training, on the elderly. Lead researcher Peter Snyder, professor of clinical neurosciences, said a global business had developed in brain training products without robust proof that they worked.

In America the cognitive training industry is worth around 55 million pounds a year, compared to less than 1.5 million in 2005, including sales of over 100 million Nintendo DS consoles which feature number and word puzzles.

Prof Snyder, of Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Providence, said: "Brain ageing products sold today can be a financial drain, decrease participation in more proven effective lifestyle interventions, like exercise." He added that they could also give false hope to the "worried well" about the chances of holding back the onset of mental decline. Some products have actually been marketed as weapons in the fight against Alzheimer's disease, he said, but there is little real proof of this.

Neil Hunt, chief executive of the Alzheimer's Society, told the Daily Mail: "One million people will develop dementia in the next 10 years so there is a desperate need to find ways to prevent dementia. "The idea that 'brain training' may prevent cognitive decline is extremely attractive, but worryingly there is only very limited evidence. "Currently the best evidence is that what is good for your heart is good for your head so eating plenty of fruit and vegetables; taking regular exercise and checking your cholesterol will all help reduce your risk."

French researchers last month found brain training games were no better than a pen and paper at stimulating memory and improving brain power. The study of 67 schoolchildren aged 10 found homework, reading, playing puzzles such as Sudoku and board games such as Scrabble were just as good, if not better than, brain training games.

A spokesman for Nintendo said the games in the "Brain Training" and "More Brain Training" range were inspired by exercises developed by neurologist Dr Kawashima, "who believes the brain needs to be exercised to help stay fit in the same way our bodies need exercise to stay in shape". He added: "Nintendo does not make any claims that 'Brain Training' is scientifically proven to improve cognitive function."



The journal article mentioned above appears to be this one. The conclusion is pure waffle and proves nothing: Our review was limited by a small, heterogeneous, and methodologically limited literature. Within this literature, we found no evidence that structured cognitive intervention programs delay or slow progression to AD in healthy elderly. Further work that accounts for the limitations of past efforts and subsequent clear and unbiased reporting to the public of the state and progress of research on this topic will help the elderly make informed decisions about a range of potential preventive lifestyle measures including cognitive intervention.


Anonymous said...

C'mon! Where's the snarky commentary on the brain training games 'study'?! This is riddled with massive flaws and foolish assumptions!

Anonymous said...

Too bad that those kids drinking low-fat milk won't actually absorb as much calcium from it; you need a decent fat level for an adequate level of fat-soluble vitamins like D and A...which are part of what need to use the calcium in the milk. As for calories, a 250ml glass of skim milk has a piddly forty calories less than whole milk.

And I don't like eating much sugar or starchy foods, not for any wacky dietary reasons, I just don't like them much. So to make up enough energy in my diet I eat plenty of dairy and eggs. I detest the one-size-fits-all dietary approach.