Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Shooter video games 'sharpen vision'

This will rile the do-gooder knowalls: Myth-busting research revealed ... fast-paced video games may actually improve your vision, a ground-breaking tudy has found

SLAYING hordes of bad guys in fast-paced video games improves vision, a study has shown for the first time. Far from being harmful to eyesight, as some had feared, action games provide excellent training for what eye doctors call contrast sensitivity, the study found. Contrast sensitivity is the ability to notice tiny changes in shades of grey against a uniform background, and is critical to everyday activities such as night driving and reading. It often degrades with age.

The findings, published in Nature Neuroscience, reveal a previously unsuspected adaptability in the brain, and could open the way to new therapies, the researchers said. ”This is not a skill that people were supposed to get better at by training,” said Daphne Bavelier, a professor at the University of Rochester in New York state and the study's lead researcher. ”It was something that we corrected for at the level of the optics of the eye – to get better contrast detection you get glasses or laser surgery.” ”What we found is that even without this correction you can help your brain make better use of whatever information is received from your retina,” she said.

For the study, Bavelier and three colleagues conducted two sets of experiments. In the first, they compared the contrast sensitivity of hard-core action game players with video game aficionados of the same age who preferred less rapid-fire fare. In action games, players typically target and shoot figures that pop up suddenly on a computer screen. The researchers found that the action buffs were 50 percent more efficient at detecting contrast.

But there remained a chicken-or-egg question: had their vision been improved by playing, or did they become action game players because they had better than average contrast sensitivity to start with? To find out, Bavelier asked two groups of non-action video game players to undergo 50 hours of training. One played a popular point-and-shoot game called Call of Duty, and the other played a game that offered a rich visual experience, but one bereft of action.

”We found that the people in the first group improved by 43 percent, and the other group not at all,” she said. As important, the study also found that the improvement was not transitory. ”The positive effect remained months, even years after training, indicating long-lasting gains,” she said.

Is there some limit beyond which playing action games loses its positive effect or becomes detrimental? Can you, in other words, have too much of a ``good thing''? “For your visual system, probably not. For your social life, perhaps,'' said Bavelier.


Stem cells to grow bigger breasts

Technique finally gets to Britain. Our "betters" don't like the idea

A STEM cell therapy offering “natural” breast enlargement is to be made available to British women for the first time. The treatment could boost cup size while reducing stomach fat. It involves extracting stem cells from spare fat on the stomach or thighs and growing them in a woman’s breasts. An increase of one cup size is likely, with the potential for larger gains as the technique improves.

A trial has already started in Britain to use stem cells to repair the breasts of women who have had cancerous lumps removed. A separate project is understood to be the first in Britain to use the new technique on healthy women seeking breast enlargement.

Professor Kefah Mokbel, a consultant breast surgeon at the London Breast Institute at the Princess Grace hospital, who is in charge of the project, will treat 10 patients from May. He predicts private patients will be able to pay for the procedure within six months at a cost of about £6,500. “This is a very exciting advance in breast surgery,” said Mokbel. “They [breasts treated with stem cells] feel more natural because this tissue has the same softness as the rest of the breast.” He said the treatment offered the potential of considerable improvement on implants: “Implants are a foreign body. They are associated with long-term complications and require replacement. They can also leak and cause scarring.”

Although the stem cell technique will restore volume, it will not provide firmness and uplift.

Mokbel believes the stem cell treatment may be suitable only for modest increases in breast size, but will conduct research to find out whether larger augmentations can be achieved: “We are optimistic we can easily achieve an increase of one cup size. We cannot say yet if we can achieve more. That may depend on the stem cells we can harvest.”

The cells will be isolated from a woman’s spare fat, once it has been extracted from her thighs or stomach, using equipment owned by GE Healthcare, a technology company. The concentrated stem cells will then be mixed with another batch of fat before being injected into the breast. It takes several months for the breast to achieve the desired size and shape.

Until now, when fat was transplanted to the breast without extra stem cells, surgeons had difficulty maintaining a blood supply to the new tissue. Surgeons believe the double concentration of stem cells under this technique promotes the growth of blood vessels to ensure a sufficient blood supply circulates to the transplanted fat.

The same technique has been used in Japan for six years, initially to treat women with breast deformities caused by cancer treatment and, more recently, for cosmetic breast augmentation in healthy women.

Mokbel is confident the therapy is safe and that, after carrying out about 30 procedures, the London Breast Institute will be able to offer the procedure to private patients.

The use of stem cells in healthy women undergoing cosmetic surgery is controversial. Medical bodies have warned that the breast enlargements should not be offered to healthy women until large-scale trials in cancer patients have shown that the new technology is safe and effective. The treatment is not yet routinely available to women solely for cosmetic purposes.

Eva Weiler-Mithoff, a consultant plastic surgeon at Canniesburn hospital in Glasgow, is leading the British arm of a European trial of stem cell therapy for women who have been left with breast deformities following removal of cancerous lumps. So far more than a dozen British cancer patients have been treated and Weiler-Mithoff is impressed with the results. She does not believe this justifies offering the treatment to healthy women, however.

She said that while breast cancer patients regularly attend follow-up appointments, young women who have had cosmetic surgery are less likely to do so and complications could be missed. [What a pathetic excuse!]


Monday, March 30, 2009

Supermarket cakes have (shock!) additives in them

This is absurd. Australia has strict food laws and what is in the cakes is legally approved. It is true that a very small number of kids have sensitivities that give them a bad reaction to some additives but the article below gives the impression that kids generally have such reactions. The original heading on the article was "Coles and Woolworths cakes send kids hyper". There are all sorts of food sensitivities, many quite rare, and if you catered to them all there would be nothing left on the shelf

CAKES sold in our leading supermarkets are riddled with additives that cause hyperactivity in children, a consumer investigation has found. The Australian Consumer Association, Choice tested 97 cakes in Coles and Woolworths and found two Woolworths bakery cakes to be the worst offenders.

Choice spokeswoman Elise Davidson said Woolworths Bakehouse Sponge Iced and Fresh-Filled Cream cake had 27 additives. The Top Taste Rollettes Choc and Woolworths' Bakehouse Sponge Single Birthday Fresh Cream were close equal seconds, with 26 additives each.

Ms Davidson said many cakes were found to contain more than 20 additives, including food colours linked to hyperactivity and additives used to prolong shelf life or cover-up cheap ingredients. "Most people wouldn't use 40 ingredients when baking a cake at home, yet that's what we found in a large number of these cakes," Ms Davidson said. Food colours are used to enhance appearance but also enable manufacturers to get away with using cheaper ingredients, such as apples instead of raspberries in jam filling and palm oil, instead of butter.

More than half the cakes also contained food colours identified as increasing hyperactivity in children, in a UK study published in the medical journal, The Lancet.

Ms Davidson said parents should check product labels for the offending food colours. "Consumers expect the cakes they buy to be fresh and to maintain that freshness, so food manufacturers use additives," Ms Davidson said. "But we think consumers should be aware of the type of ingredients that go into a lot of these cakes".

The study found that price was no indicator of quality, with some of the most expensive brands among the heaviest users of additives. Australians spend $312 million a year buying cakes from supermarkets, which equates to about 70 million cakes.


Why are these vegans sent to plague us?

Comment from Australia by Michael Coulter, a recovering vegetarian

QUESTION: what do you get when you cross moral snobbery with a lack of taste? Answer: a vegan.

This may be tough on a group of people who want nothing more than to live a life free of cruelty. But, while there are many things in the world that are worse than evangelical vegetarianism — pre-season football and question time spring to mind — there are few that are more joyless and depressing. Vegans, you see, exist so that others may feel guilt about something completely normal: the desire to eat food that is tasty, nourishing and appropriate to our physical specifications.

Humans require certain basic nutrients to function, and to be vegan is to spend your life thinking about where you're going to get your next fix of vitamin B12. Not that they'll admit it. The vegans who write letters to newspapers and ring talkback radio rhapsodise about the culinary options available to them, and many of them seem to believe it. Perhaps their brains are so starved of essential trace minerals that they really think that spurning all animal-based products improves the range and quality of their diet.

The centrepiece of the vegan creed is that killing or domesticating animals for food production is cruel and immoral. It's a position that raises all sorts of questions, from those about the cognitive level of animals and whether they experience true emotion, to those about where you draw the line. For example, is it all right to eat grain grown on a farm that kills millions of insects that would otherwise devour the crops? If vegans won't eat honey, as many won't, the logical answer is "no". And just how far down the evolutionary ladder are we willing to go — Save the Microbes has a certain ring to it.

Lately the V-movement has added a second ingredient to its guilt cocktail — the environment. Raising animals is bad for the planet. To which one could reply: "Yes. And so is printing books, growing chickpeas and living in a house."

At some point, you need to balance what's good for people against what's good for the Earth (which, by the by, is an awfully tough old ball of rock that has already seen off millions of species and will see off millions more, including ours, before it is one day consumed by the sun).

Which brings us round to the big problem with veganism, which is that it's not so much pro-animal as anti-people. At the same time it raises up animals, it diminishes humanity. Noted thinker and the intellectual spearhead of the no-meat movement Peter Singer has summed it up thus: "But pain is pain, and the importance of preventing unnecessary pain and suffering does not diminish because the being that suffers is not a member of our species."

You could dismiss this as the "Awww, aren't they cute" reflex elevated to a moral philosophy, but it certainly sets up an interesting hypothetical: how would we live in a world where cows have equal rights with humans? What does a cow want from life, and how would we provide it? What would we do with the millions of cows we already have? Will they be prepared to follow our laws and share our values? Would a cow pass the Australian citizenship test (even one without the question about Don Bradman)?

The point being that humans are the only creatures on earth in a cerebral position to consider such matters, which does give us a certain status. While it's unfashionable for us Western-world types to claim any sort of superiority over anyone or anything, we are smarter than the average bear, bird and even dolphin.

Animals never think twice about devouring each other, often while the devouree is still alive and bleating. We definitely have an obligation to raise, keep and slaughter animals in the most humane manner possible. But survival of the species is a messy business, and instead of wringing our hands we should occasionally give ourselves a pat on the back for being so good at it. It's better than the alternative.

One of the other things that people are particularly good at is making choices, and there's nothing at all wrong with choosing not to eat animal products.

The problem is with zealotry. When a vegetarian comes to dinner, I wouldn't feed them meat, nor would I lecture them on the benefits of doing so. Because, if there's one thing worse than having high-minded zealots jam their dogma down your throat, it's when they want to do it literally.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Student Obesity Linked to Proximity to Fast-Food Outlets

A 5% increased incidence is very weak. The Federal Reference Manual on Scientific Evidence, Second Edition says (p. 384): "the threshold for concluding that an agent was more likely than not the cause of an individual's disease is a relative risk greater than 2.0." So the 5% in the present study stacks up badly when compared with 200%.

If there is any real meaning in the findings, they probably show that fast food outlets tend to locate more in areas where their customers are clustered -- in poorer areas. And poorer people tend to be fatter anyway

Teens who attend classes within one-tenth of a mile of a fast-food outlet are more likely to be obese than peers whose campuses are located farther from the lure of quarter-pound burgers, fries and shakes. Those are the findings of a recent study by researchers from UC Berkeley and Columbia University seeking a link between obesity and the easy availability of fast food. The academics studied body-fat data from more than 1 million California ninth-graders over an eight-year period, focusing on the proximity of the school to well-known chains including McDonald's, Burger King, KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut. Their conclusion: Fast food and young waistlines make lousy neighbors, the LA Times reports.

The presence of an outlet within easy walking distance of a high school — about 530 feet or less — resulted in a 5.2% increase in the incidence of student obesity compared with the average for California youths, a correlation deemed "sizable" according to the findings. The link vanished when these fast-food joints were located farther from campus, presumably because students couldn't easily reach them. Nor was it present in schools located near full-service eateries, whose prices and service times don't typically match student budgets, tastes or schedules, reports Times writer Jerry Hirsch.

"Fast food offers the most calories per price compared to other restaurants, and that's combined with a high temptation factor for students," said Stefano DellaVigna, a UC Berkeley economist and one of the paper's authors, the Times reports. The researchers said cities concerned about battling teen obesity should consider banning fast-food restaurants near schools.

The findings are likely to fuel the debate over what's driving America's obesity epidemic. Concerned about growing rates of diabetes and heart disease — particularly among young people — state and local governments nationwide are taking aim at fatty, high-calorie foods.

California has been one of the most aggressive. Students can no longer purchase soda or junk food in Golden State schools. Some districts won't allow bake sales. California has banned artery-clogging trans fats, and Los Angeles has a one-year moratorium on new fast-food outlets in a 32-square-mile area of South L.A.

More than a dozen states and numerous cities are pondering legislation patterned after a new California law forcing chain restaurants to list calorie counts on their menus.

But blaming restaurants for the nation's weight problem strikes many as misguided. Obesity can be a product of a variety of factors, experts say, including genetics, lack of exercise and household nutrition. Courts have struck down patrons' attempts to sue restaurant chains for making them fat.

Not every group living or working in areas where fast food is plentiful experiences a higher incidence of obesity. The report's authors studied weight data for pregnant women, another group for which statistics are easily available. They found a much smaller correlation between the expectant mothers' weight gain and their proximity to the same type of burger, chicken and pizza restaurants.

The high schoolers studied appeared more susceptible to the temptations of fast food. "School kids are a captive audience. They can't go very far from school during lunch, but adults can get in their car and have more choices," said Janet Currie of Columbia University, a co-author, the Times reports.


Very hot tea and coffee linked to raised oesophagus cancer

This seems entirely reasonable. Note that, unlike most epidemiological studies, the effect found was large: An 800% rise versus the 30% that seems to be the average for the studies I see

You may be gasping for that freshly brewed cup of tea or coffee, but waiting five minutes before drinking it could save your life. Researchers have found that a taste for very hot drinks may be linked to cancer of the oesophagus and that the risk of contracting the disease may increase eightfold as a result of drinking tea hotter than 70C (158F).

The oesophagus is the tube that carries food from the throat to the stomach and such cancers kill more than half a million people around the world every year.

In Europe and America it is usually caused by smoking or alcohol, but a study published in the British Medical Journal found that there was a particularly high incidence of the disease in northern Iran, where smoking and alcohol consumption is low. The people of Golestan province do, however, drink large amounts of very hot tea - at least 70C.

Researchers studied the tea-drinking habits of 300 people with the cancer and a group of 571 healthy people from the same area. Compared with drinking warm or lukewarm tea (65C or less), drinking it at 65-69C doubled the risk of oesophageal cancer, while drinking it at 70C or more was associated with an eightfold increased risk.

Drinking tea less than two minutes after pouring, rather than waiting four or five minutes, led to a fivefold increase in the risk. There was no correlation between the amount of tea — after water the most widely consumed drink in the world — and the risk.

In an accompanying editorial, David Whiteman, from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research in Australia, said: “We should follow the advice of Mrs Beeton, who prescribes a 5-10 minute interval between making and pouring tea, by which time the tea will be sufficiently flavoursome and unlikely to cause thermal injury.”

Britons may also take comfort from the fact that most of us prefer our tea at between 56 and 60C.


Saturday, March 28, 2009

Study Links Anesthesia To Learning Disabilities

Does it take more than 2 seconds of sniffing to smell the foulness of the following lengthy excretion of crap? Has anyone thought to ask what the prior characteristics of children who require repeated surgery might be? Might it be that they start out with brain damage as well as other forms of damage? I append some remarks by a chief anesthiologist working in a large American public hospital

Children who have had multiple surgeries under general anesthesia by the age of 4 may be at a higher risk of developing learning disabilities, according to a new study by scientists at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Dr. Robert Wilder, a Mayo Clinic anesthesiologist, says his study was motivated by recent research on baby rats and other young animals. Those studies, conducted in the last several years, show that exposure to anesthesia at a very young age can kill off brain cells. But results in rodents don't necessarily translate to humans.

"The initial reaction of the pediatric anesthesia community was, 'This must be wrong, we've been giving anesthetics to kids for years and we don't see a big problem,''' Wilder says. He, too, was skeptical.

The Mayo Clinic sits in Olmsted County. Both the research clinic and the county have kept precise records on the health care and hospitalization of its residents. Wilder sorted through the records of more than 5,000 children. About 600 of them had one or more surgeries with a general anesthesia, a class of drugs that enters the blood stream, reaches the brain and leaves a patient in a state of unconsciousness. Local anesthesia (like what's used by dentists when filling a cavity) and regional anesthesia (like an epidural that's common during childbirth) numb just a part of the body, but don't cause the patient to lose consciousness.

The surgeries ranged from those for serious problems, like open heart surgery, to more routine ones, like putting in ear tubes or removing adenoids and tonsils. Most of the kids in the study — about 80 percent — had surgeries for the small and common problems.

Wilder found that children who had undergone a single operation with a general anesthetic by the time they turned 4 were no more likely than other children to develop a learning disability. But kids who had had two surgeries were one and a half times more at risk. [In other words, it was only where kids had serious health problems that the learning problems were seen] And for children who had undergone three operations, the risk went up to two and a half times. Of the kids in Wilder's study who had had three or more operations, 50 percent of them later developed a learning disability.

Wilder speculates that anesthesia could cause learning problems in young children because it travels to the brain at a time when the brain is developing rapidly. "If you're exposed to these drugs at just the right time in your life," he says, "you have a lot more cell death than you otherwise would — and some of that is in the hippocampus, which is part of the brain that is involved in learning new things and it, therefore, does not work as well throughout the rest of your life."

That makes sense to Amanda Rathbun, who lives outside Salt Lake City. "I always thought that things like this ran in families, like if your dad has brown eyes, then you're more likely to have brown eyes. But there's not a history of this in our family," she says. Rathbun has three very smart kids. Her 11-year-old daughter has no learning disabilities. But another daughter, who's 8, and her son, who's 13, have both been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder. Both kids had several surgeries soon after birth. In addition, the son has struggled to write legibly. Fine motor skills are a problem for him, and Rathbun wonders if he could have gotten more attention for that sooner. "If general anesthesia early in life can really cause these sorts of problems," she says, "I think it would be good to know that, because maybe we could start more early intervention services for these kids and maybe prevent some of these later problems."

The new research is published in the current issue of Anesthesiology, the journal of the American Society of Anesthesiologists. The co-authors write that more studies are needed to be certain it's the anesthesia that's causing the problem. It might be the illness that requires the surgery — although the researchers took the sickest children out of the study.

Wilder says parents shouldn't avoid surgery when kids younger than 4 need it. "My advice is that if their child needs a surgical or diagnostic procedure that requires an anesthetic, then they should go ahead and have that surgical or diagnostic procedure with the anesthetic," he says.

Dr. Piyush Patel, who wrote an accompanying editorial in the same journal, agrees. He adds that parents can, however, ask their doctor if it's better to postpone a surgery until a child is older. "Based on these data, the parents of children have to be comfortable that the surgery is absolutely needed and they have to balance the risk of waiting for the surgery to be done versus the complication that may arise," says Patel, a professor of anesthesiology at the University of California, San Diego. "This is a decision that is best made by the surgeon and the anesthesiologist."

Wilder's study, and others, have created a sense of urgency to answer questions about the effects of anesthesia on the brain development of infants and young children. Earlier this month, the federal Food and Drug Administration announced a collaboration with Mayo and other clinics to support further research.



Trash from the start. And these guys are shameless - to get grant money - to raise stupid questions. And likely they will make a lot as expert witnesses to blame anesthesiologists for ADD etc..

And they admit that they excluded the worst cases. TRASH - how can you exclude children with serious defects requiring multiple surgeries? I speak as an expert. A routine anesthetic in a healthy patient is HARMLESS. In a sick patient, it is also HARMLESS -


These shameless anesthesiologists are pandering to the Obama Care lobby - to declare anesthesia as a risk factor, and use 'more caution' to limit the number of operations. Fits in just right to reduce budget. And to make parents hysteric so they avoid needed surgery in their children.


PS - In private practice, I did a lot of anesthesia on "healthy children" and NONE were more stupid after anesthesia than before, that I could see.

The integrity of neural wiring is a big factor in determining intelligence. It's also inheritable

I have mentioned this before but the article below gives more detail

New research suggests that the layer of insulation coating neural wiring in the brain plays a critical role in determining intelligence. In addition, the quality of this insulation appears to be largely genetically determined, providing further support for the idea that IQ is partly inherited.

The findings, which result from a detailed study of twins' brains, hint at how ever-improving brain-imaging technology could shed light on some of our most basic characteristics. "The study answers some very fundamental questions about how the brain expresses intelligence," says Philip Shaw, a child psychiatrist at the National Institute of Mental Health, in Bethesda, MD, who was not involved in the research.

The neural wires that transmit electrical messages from cell to cell in the brain are coated with a fatty layer called myelin. Much like the insulation on an electrical wire, myelin stops current from leaking out of the wire and boosts the speed with which messages travel through the brain--the higher quality the myelin, the faster the messages travel. These myelin-coated tracts make up the brain's white matter, while the bodies of neural cells are called grey matter.

White matter is invisible on most brain scans, but a recently developed variation of magnetic resonance imaging, called diffusion-tensor imaging (DTI), allows scientists to map the complex neural wiring in our brains by measuring the diffusion of water molecules through tissue. Thanks to the fatty myelin coating, water diffuses along the length of neural wires, while in other types of brain tissue it moves in all different directions. Researchers can calculate the direction of fastest diffusion at each point in the brain and then construct a picture of the brain's fiber tracts. A well-organized brain has well-functioning myelin, in which water can be seen clearly moving along specific paths. "Diffusion imaging gives a picture of how intact your brain connections are," says Paul Thompson, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who lead the study.

Thompson and his colleagues took DTI scans of 92 pairs of fraternal and identical twins. They found a strong correlation between the integrity of the white matter and performance on a standard IQ test. "Going forward, we are certainly going to think of white matter structure as an important contributor of intelligence," says Van Wedeen, a neuroscientist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, who was also not involved in the research. "It also changes how you think about what IQ is measuring," says Wedeen. The research was published last month in the Journal of Neuroscience.

If white matter is linked to both processing speed and IQ, this raises the question: is intelligence merely a function of how fast your brain works? Previous research has linked processing speed to IQ, but the tests used in the study are measures of general intelligence, including verbal skills, math, and logic. "Processing speed plays a big part in how intelligent you are, but it's not the only factor," says Shaw.

The new study is among the first to link a specific neural architecture to IQ in healthy individuals. "Most people have focused on grey matter," says Shaw. "This is good evidence we should be looking at white matter as well." Previous studies using DTI have linked white matter damage to Alzheimer's disease, chronic alcoholism, and traumatic brain injury.

The UCLA researchers took the study a step further by comparing the white matter architecture of identical twins, who share almost all their DNA, and fraternal twins, who share only half. Results showed that the quality of the white matter is highly genetically determined, although the influence of genetics varies by brain area. According to the findings, about 85 percent of the variation in white matter in the parietal lobe, which is involved in mathematics, logic, and visual-spatial skills, can be attributed to genetics. But only about 45 percent of the variation in the temporal lobe, which plays a central role in learning and memory, appears to be inherited.

Thompson and his collaborators also analyzed the twins' DNA, and they are now looking for specific genetic variations that are linked to the quality of the brain's white matter. The researchers have already found a candidate--the gene for a protein called BDNF, which promotes cell growth. "People with one variation have more intact fibers," says Thompson.

The search for the genetic and neuroanatomical basis of intelligence has been controversial, largely because opponents fear it will spawn a deterministic view of abilities and education. "People worry that if something is genetic, they have no power to influence it," says Thompson. "But that's not true at all." For example, both an average runner and a genetically gifted one can benefit from training.

But the debate may be moot since, as Wedeen points out, it is unlikely that an individual brain scan could predict a person's IQ. "The report described aggregate data over number of individuals," he says. "That's not the same as saying we can do a scan and determine a person's intelligence. That may be in the offing, but we don't know that yet."


Friday, March 27, 2009

British food faddist regulations put hot school meals at risk

The future of school meals is in jeopardy because only half of secondary schools are on course to comply with stringent government standards, catering leaders will say today. This could bring about the demise of hot meals in secondary schools, as caterers struggle to cope with the expensive and time-consuming restrictions. From September they will have to buy costly computer equipment to calculate the nutritional content of every meal. Each dish must meet 14 standards, including calorie content, fat, proteins and vitamins.

Caterers say that the obsession with raising the quality of school food, begun by the TV chef Jamie Oliver, has been taken too far by ministers. At best they will have to restrict choice, by scrapping the cafeteria-style buffet common in most schools in favour of a set two-course menu that places greater emphasis on nutrition than pupils’ tastes.

An example of dish that would meet the nutrition requirements is a chicken and vegetable stir fry with brown rice and green cabbage. A typical portion would contain 411 calories, 6.3g fat and 20.6g protein. Burgers with chips and baked beans will disappear.

Caterers say that teenagers will vote with their feet, choosing to eat elsewhere. They predict that this will lead to redundancies and say that the service will be under threat. The Government has banned schools from selling crisps, chocolate and fizzy drinks.

The Local Authority Caterers’ Association, which holds its conference in London today, surveyed its members and found that only half were prepared for the nutrient standards at the start of the next academic year. A sixth will not have any in place. The standards became law in primary schools last year but this was much easier to introduce because a set meal is the norm for younger pupils.

Neil Porter, chairman of Laca, said these were a “step too far”. He said: “We will have to put menus and recipes through a software system which produces a graph to show whether they are compliant. These will be externally monitored and checked. “Secondary schools have an average 30 to 40-minute lunch break, and 1,000 pupils. How can you feed upwards of 1,000 students set meals, with the added complication of kitchen and dining areas not being able to cope with new food preparation and the increased numbers? And let’s not forget the other important point: that teenagers will not choose the new food on offer when, before, they had multiple choice menus. “We have to meet 14 nutrient standards and will have most problems with zinc and iron. Liver and spinach are the best sources but these aren’t the most popular items in school. We would be providing something that they shun, in order to tick a box.”

Mr Porter said that the changes would “inevitably lead to a loss of posts within kitchens and could finally result in the school meals service, as we know it, ceasing in secondary schools.” A statement issued by Laca said: “Together with a number of other leading organisations, academic researchers, dietitians and health experts, we believe that nutrient standards could bring the demise of the secondary school meal service in this country.”

The survey found that almost three quarters of caterers believed that the standards would result in high food costs and an increase in meal prices. Four fifths thought it would cause a decline in the uptake of school lunches.

A spokeswoman for the School Food Trust, which devised the nutrient standards, said: “They are challenging but there is a very valid reason for them. It is important that they are in place to ensure we promote the health, wellbeing and achievements of children. The School Food Trust has worked with caterers from a number of different school settings. All have proved that through hard work and engagement with students they have been able to produce a compliant, appealing, tasty and varied menu.”


Australia: Food freak mayor imposing her views on others

SYDNEY Lord Mayor Clover Moore has banned Tim Tams from council events for fear they're partially produced through cruel child labour on Africa's Ivory Coast. In a move to create "sustainable, healthy and cruelty-free catering" at City of Sydney meetings and events, staff have stopped providing chocolate biscuits along with meals containing eggs, bottled water, fat-rich cakes, dairy deserts and "bad" fish species.

One of the first attempts at the new politically correct meals policy was at the council's Investing in Sydney's Future business forum on February 25. On the menu were vegetables (locally grown), NSW wines (organic) and "a good fish species choice" (blue-eye trevalla).

Liberal councillor Shayne Mallard, who was at a briefing on the guidelines, said the first hint of the new policy was when Tim Tams disappeared from meetings. "We are being dictated to by a radical green agenda telling us what fish we can eat, what water we drink and banning eggs or Tim Tams instead of focusing on issues like saving jobs," Mr Mallard said.

"Council staff told me Tim Tams were banned because 80 per cent of world cocoa production comes from the Ivory Coast, where there are allegations of child labour." An Arnott's spokeswoman said only a very limited supply of chocolate was from the Ivory Coast. "But this supplier is a member of the International Cocoa Initiative, which is dedicated to ensuring no child is exploited in the growing of cocoa and to ending child and forced labour," she said.

Requests for comment from Ms Moore were declined yesterday but a spokeswoman said: "No particular brand of food or drink has been identified as being off the menu." In a memo obtained by The Daily Telegraph, the council's environmental projects manager Kirsten Woodward said the council would serve only cruelty-free and healthy options. "Vegan, vegetarian and lactose intolerant options have also been developed for future events," Ms Woodward's memo said.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Meet 'Lucky' Yamaguchi, the only man to have survived both Hiroshima AND Nagasaki atomic bomb blasts

The utter morons below are asking about his health problems -- ignoring the fact that he is 93! He clearly has unusually few health problems. That is exactly what one would expect from radiation hormesis. It has been shown many times that moderate doses of radiation are GOOD for you but nobody wants to acknowledge it. Because very high doses are bad for you, the pedlars of simplistic scare theories pretend that low doses are bad too. It just aint so -- and Mr Yamaguchi is one proof of it. There are MANY survivors of the 1945 blasts who are exceptionally long lived but that is too complicated for the lamebrains so reality is ignored

A man of 93 has become the first person certified as a survivor of both the U.S. atomic bombs dropped on Japan at the end of the Second World War. Tsutomu Yamaguchi appears to be the only person in history to have survived not one, but two atomic bomb blasts. But does this make him the luckiest man in the world - or the unluckiest...?

Yamaguchi had already been a certified 'hibakusha,' or radiation survivor, of the August 9, 1945, atomic bombing in Nagasaki. But he has now been confirmed as surviving the attack on Hiroshima three days earlier as well, city officials said.

Yamaguchi was in Hiroshima on a business trip on August 6, 1945, when a U.S. B-29 dropped an atomic bomb on the city. He suffered serious burns to his upper body and spent the night in the city. Traumatised, he then sought the refuge of his hometown - Nagasaki. With devastating timing, he arrived just in time for the second attack, city officials said.

'As far as we know, he is the first one to be officially recognised as a survivor of atomic bombings in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki,' Nagasaki city official Toshiro Miyamoto said. 'It's such an unfortunate case, but it is possible that there are more people like him.'

It is unclear why it has taken so long for Yamaguchi to be recognised. Certification qualifies survivors for government compensation - including monthly allowances, free medical checkups and funeral costs - but Yamaguchi will not get double compensation, Miyamoto said.

Japan is the only country to have suffered atomic bomb attacks. About 140,000 people were killed in Hiroshima and 70,000 in Nagasaki.

Yamaguchi is one of about 260,000 people who survived the attacks. Bombing survivors have developed various illnesses from radiation exposure, including cancer and liver illnesses. Details of Yamaguchi's health problems were not released.

Thousands survivors continue to seek official recognition after the government rejected their eligibility for compensation. The government last year eased the requirements for being certified as a survivor, following criticism the rules were too strict and neglected many who had developed illnesses that doctors have linked to radiation.


Cannabis users 'suffering new syndrome'

THERE is mounting evidence to support the existence of a new syndrome afflicting heavy cannabis users, after the world's first cases were found in South Australia. The condition "cannabinoid hyperemesis" was first identified in a group of about 20 heavy drug users in the Adelaide hills in 2004, and a new case has emerged this time in the US. The syndrome is characterised by nausea, stomach pain and bouts of vomiting - ill effects which, oddly, sufferers say they get some relief from by having a hot shower or bath.

The new case, involving a 22-year-old man in Omaha, is published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology where doctors were also told to consider it when treating people with unexplained vomiting. "Given the high prevalence of chronic cannabis abuse worldwide and the paucity of reports in the literature, clinicians need to be more attentive to the clinical features of this under-recognised condition," writes Dr Siva Sontineni, and colleagues, from the Creighton University Medical Centre.

In the US case, the sufferer had been smoking marijuana daily and in heavy doses for six years. This eventually led to bouts of vomiting lasting two to three hours daily, and this was worse after meals. As with South Australian cases, the young man initially turned to "compulsive hot bathing behaviour" to relieve the symptoms but he was not cured until he gave up smoking cannabis altogether.

Adelaide-based drug expert and emergency ward doctor, Dr David Caldicott, said he had seen three cases of the illness and it was possibly also under-reported by sufferers. "We're probably seeing the tip of the iceberg in the emergency departments, it's probably far more common but far milder (in the broader community)," he said.

Little was known about how cumulative cannabis use could lead to vomiting and, particularly, why sufferers would find some relief in hot bathing, Dr Caldicott also said. "That's a distinct and unanimously recurrent feature of this condition, and we don't know why," he said. "Grown men, screaming in pain, sweating profusely, vomiting every 30 seconds and demanding to be allowed to use the shower. It's a very dramatic presentation."

Dr Caldicott said the condition had been identified in a small number of cannabis users "but in the medical community it is now considered to be a real condition".

The National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre, based at the University of NSW, is taking a more conservative approach. Centre director Jan Copeland said more cases would need to emerge before it could be considered a new syndrome linked to chronic cannabis use. "It is not unusual for there to be significant mental and physical health complications with this level of cannabis use," Professor Copeland said.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

BBQs in the gun again

It pays to look at the journal abstract (see following the article below). For a start, it says nothing about BBQs. It is concerned with meat consumption overall. Tiny differences were found and then only by comparing extreme groups. The study did have enough sophistication to control for education but education has only some relationship with occupation. If there is anything at all in the findings, the people in the big meat-eating group were probably manual workers in the main and the low meat-eating group were probably faddy middle class vegetarians and such like. And class differences are well known as an influence on morbidity and mortality. Any inferences from the findings are purely speculative

THROWING a steak on the barbecue is in the gun, after a major study found people who eat red meat are more likely to die from cancer or heart attack. Barbecuing red meat was also the cooking method that caused the most cancer causing "carcinogens", experts have warned.

The US study looked at the diets of more than 500,000 people and a follow-up 10 years later found those who ate the most red, or processed, meat had a higher incidence of death. Eating white meat - poultry or fish - did not have the same effect and was associated with a slightly decreased risk.

Cancer Council Australia chief executive Professor Ian Olver said that while the study could not be said to show that red meat caused cancer, the apparent link warranted further research. "Such population studies demonstrate these relationships between red meat and cancer deaths but are not able to prove that one causes the other," he said. "With red meat, for example, the method of cooking is important. "For example, more carcinogens would be expected to be produced from barbecue than by slow cooking (while) the other factor predisposing to cancer is the fat content of the meat."

The research, produced as part of the National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study, is published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.

The study raised the question of what role meat should play in the diet, says Mark Wahlqvist, Director of the Asia Pacific Health and Nutrition Centre at Victoria's Monash University. He said that red meat in small amounts - even about an ounce or 30 grams daily - could make a significant difference to the risk of micronutrient (vitamins and minerals) deficiency. "(But) the corollary is that a plant-based diet is a preferred orientation for food intake in the human species and many studies support this conclusion," Professor Wahlqvist said.


Meat Intake and Mortality: A Prospective Study of Over Half a Million People

By Rashmi Sinha et al.

Background: High intakes of red or processed meat may increase the risk of mortality. Our objective was to determine the relations of red, white, and processed meat intakes to risk for total and cause-specific mortality.

Methods: The study population included the National Institutes of Health–AARP (formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons) Diet and Health Study cohort of half a million people aged 50 to 71 years at baseline. Meat intake was estimated from a food frequency questionnaire administered at baseline. Cox proportional hazards regression models estimated hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) within quintiles of meat intake. The covariates included in the models were age, education, marital status, family history of cancer (yes/no) (cancer mortality only), race, body mass index, 31-level smoking history, physical activity, energy intake, alcohol intake, vitamin supplement use, fruit consumption, vegetable consumption, and menopausal hormone therapy among women. Main outcome measures included total mortality and deaths due to cancer, cardiovascular disease, injuries and sudden deaths, and all other causes.

Results: There were 47 976 male deaths and 23 276 female deaths during 10 years of follow-up. Men and women in the highest vs lowest quintile of red (HR, 1.31 [95% CI, 1.27-1.35], and HR, 1.36 [95% CI, 1.30-1.43], respectively) and processed meat (HR, 1.16 [95% CI, 1.12-1.20], and HR, 1.25 [95% CI, 1.20-1.31], respectively) intakes had elevated risks for overall mortality. Regarding cause-specific mortality, men and women had elevated risks for cancer mortality for red (HR, 1.22 [95% CI, 1.16-1.29], and HR, 1.20 [95% CI, 1.12-1.30], respectively) and processed meat (HR, 1.12 [95% CI, 1.06-1.19], and HR, 1.11 [95% CI 1.04-1.19], respectively) intakes. Furthermore, cardiovascular disease risk was elevated for men and women in the highest quintile of red (HR, 1.27 [95% CI, 1.20-1.35], and HR, 1.50 [95% CI, 1.37-1.65], respectively) and processed meat (HR, 1.09 [95% CI, 1.03-1.15], and HR, 1.38 [95% CI, 1.26-1.51], respectively) intakes. When comparing the highest with the lowest quintile of white meat intake, there was an inverse association for total mortality and cancer mortality, as well as all other deaths for both men and women.

Conclusion: Red and processed meat intakes were associated with modest increases in total mortality, cancer mortality, and cardiovascular disease mortality.

Arch Intern Med. 2009;169(6):562-571.

Should schools tell you what to put in your child's lunchbox?

There seems to have been a lot of backpedalling since this story first broke -- judging from the commenter below. Note that the one thing that is most heavily hated seems to be chocolate but there have been plenty of findings suggesting that chocolate is good for you. I don't assert that it is. I just want to point out the arrogance of people claiming to know what is best in a field beset by controversy and ever-evolving knowledge -- particularly when much conventional thinking does not stand up under objective test

You have to feel for headteacher Deborah Metcalf. Accused by the Daily Mail of running a sandwich box Stasi and the Daily Telegraph of presiding over a mealtime Gestapo, the head of Danegrove Primary School in Barnet, Greater London, is somewhat bemused. "Everyone had been very supportive," she told School Gate today. "At least until one parent went to the papers."

The story is to do with packed lunches, and the drive towards healthy eating. Having worked on healthy school lunches for the last few years, Ms Metcalf felt that it was time to make some suggestions to pupils' packed lunches too. A third of pupils at the school (which is 605 strong) bring packed lunches every day, and Ms Metcalf and her staff were not too thrilled to see that some lunchboxes were filled with fizzy drinks and crisps.

"We wanted the children who bring packed lunches in to try and make them healthy, like the school lunches. We suggested a pot of pasta or rice, sandwiches or pitta pockets, fruit or yoghurt." Plain or fruit cake is also acceptable at Danegrove, although not chocolate cake (which the canteen doesn't serve to the children taking school lunches either), fizzy drinks or "full-fat crisps". The new policy began in September and parents have been told about it repeatedly "It's in our newsletter every week," says Ms Metcalf.

But while the head and her staff thought the whole policy was going well, it seems that some parents were not as thrilled (although it has to be said that only one family went to the press, and they chose not to speak to the head first...). Those who flout the new policy receive a little note in their child's lunchbox, reminding them of the healthy eating policy, and very occasionally (Ms Metcalf can remember just one, yep, one occasion when the mealtime supervisor took away a packet of chocolate biscuits), offending items are removed.

Some parents will complain, in Daily Mail voice about this, but, I'm going to stick my head above the parapet: I think this is a good idea. There, I said it! The school is not being overly prescriptive (it doesn't recommend jam sandwiches, for example, but it hasn't banned them either), is trying to educate adults a little and by doing this, is helping children learn about healthy eating. Many of them won't pick this up at home, but eating more healthily will help them throughout their lives. However, I do have to say that I'm not convinced about the letter-in-the-lunchbox. That does seem a little over-the-top.

I'm sure many of you will disagree with my (generally) positive thoughts about this, and argue that you, as parents, should be allowed to give your child whatever you want to eat. Feel free - at least out of school time. But I do feel that there is an obesity problem in this country, and that suggesting a child doesn't have a can of Coke for lunch can only be a good thing. And the headteacher of this school says that the children's behaviour and concentration in the afternoons is far, far better now, which has to be a good thing... [But she would say that, wouldn't she? Have any objective observations or tests been done?]


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

British scientists 'to create synthetic blood from embryonic stem cells'

Many people will object to this on moral grounds but, even though abortion horrifies me, I cannot see the harm in using material that would otherwise be discarded

British scientists are planning a ground-breaking research project to create synthetic human blood from embryonic stem cells, it has been disclosed. The results could provide an unlimited supply of blood for emergency transfusions free of the risk of infection. It could revolutionise blood transfusion services, which currently rely on a network of human donors to provide a constant supply of fresh blood.

The three-year project will be led by the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service and includes NHS Blood and Transplant and the Wellcome Trust, the world's biggest medical research charity.

The artificial blood will be made from the stem cells of human embryos left over from IVF treatment. Researchers will test the embryos to find those that are genetically programmed to develop into the "O-negative" blood group. This is the universal donor group, whose blood can be transfused to any patient without the fear of tissue rejection. The rare blood group, which is applicable to only 7 per cent of the population, could then be produced in unlimited quantities because of the embryonic stem cells' ability to multiply indefinitely.

The objective is to stimulate the cells to develop into mature, oxygen-carrying red blood cells for emergency transfusions. Such blood would have the benefit of not being at risk of being infected with viruses such as HIV and hepatitis.

The SNBTS is expected within weeks to sign an agreement with the Wellcome Trust for a grant to fund the multi-million pound research project. A spokeswoman for the SNBTS confirmed that the research project was to go ahead but said that no further comment could be made because it was bound by a confidentiality agreement with the Wellcome Trust.

According to The Independent, the project will be led by Professor Marc Turner, of Edinburgh University, the director of the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service. Professor Turner has been involved in studies examining ways to ensure donated blood is free of the infectious agent behind variant CJD, the human form of "mad cow" disease.

Last year, Advanced Cell Technology, a US biotechnology firm, claimed it had produced billions of functioning red blood cells from embryonic stem cells. However, US projects have been delayed due to funding problems as a result of the ban on embryonic stem cell research introduced by the Bush administration, which Barack Obama has since overturned.


Proteins from garden pea may help fight high blood pressure and kidney disease (but only for rats so far)

One has to laugh! Pease pies (pies containing meat with a topping of mushy peas) are an old favourite in Australia. Who knew that we were doing ourselves such a lot of good?

Extracts from garden peas could be used as a food additive or supplement to reduce high blood pressure and kidney disease, claim scientists. Peas have long been recognised as a superfood containing protein, dietary fibre, and vitamins wrapped in a low-fat, cholesterol-free package. But new research shows for the first time that concentrating extracts from the pea can have dramatic affect on blood pressure and chronic kidney disease (CKD).

"In people with high blood pressure, our protein could potentially delay or prevent the onset of kidney damage," said study author Dr Rotimi Aluko, a food chemist at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada. "In people who already have kidney disease, our protein may help them maintain normal blood pressure levels so they can live longer."

The study, which will be presented at the American Chemical Society's conference, is the first reporting that a natural food product can relieve symptoms of kidney disease, the scientists said. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a major risk factor for CKD, a condition that has been affecting an increasing number of people around the world. CKD is difficult to treat, and may progress to end-stage kidney disease that requires kidney dialysis or a kidney transplant.

Working with colleague Dr Harold Aukema, Dr Aluko purified a mixture of small proteins – called pea protein hydrolysate – from the yellow garden pea. The researchers fed small daily doses of the protein mixture to laboratory rats with kidney disease. At the end of the eight-week-long study period, the protein-fed rats with kidney disease showed a 20 per cent drop in blood pressure when compared to diseased rats on a normal diet, the researchers say.

"This is significant because a majority of CKD patients actually die from cardiovascular complications that arise from the high blood pressure associated with kidney malfunction," Dr Aluko said.


Monday, March 23, 2009

Obesity 'causing rise in kidney stone operations'

This is just speculation dressed up as science

The number of patients requiring operations for painful kidney stones has risen by one third in five years, driven in part by the growing obesity crisis [How do they know that?], experts have warned. More and more patients are having to undergo invasive surgery and other procedures to remove the stones, which can cause excruciating pain and dangerous complications.

Official figures from the NHS Information Centre show that 18,964 of these procedures were carried out in 2006/07, an increase of a third on 2002/03, when the number was just 14,306. Although operations were most common on those in middle age or older the statistics also revealed that 203 were carried out on under-18s in 2006/07, up from 189 five years earlier.

Almost one in four British adults is now classed as obese, and doctors predict that the figure will rise in coming decades.

Daron Smith, urology consultant at University College London Hospital, said: "One of the major causes of kidney stones can be diet and lifestyle and the growing obesity problem is related [to them]. "Eating too much protein and high levels of salt is not good for the build up of chemicals in the urine which can cause stones. "This can be exacerbated by a condition called metabolic syndrome, which is also one of the links between obesity and Type II diabetes." He said that his clinic had noticed an increase both in the number of patients and in the size of the stones that required treatment in recent years.

Caused mainly by a build up of calcium or uric acid in the urine, stones are usually small enough that patients will "pass" them over time without the need for surgery. However, large stones can migrate from the kidneys into other parts of the body, where they can become stuck, cause infection, or lead to permanent kidney damage. Symptoms can include severe pain in the stomach or back, a frequent urge to urinate, as well as a fever.

Procedures to remove the stones include using an X-ray to locate where they are in the body, and then passing an electric current through the area to break them up so that they are small enough to be passed in urine, as well as invasive surgery on the kidney.


Prince Charles' Duchy Originals ordered to remove 'misleading' herbal remedy claims

Prince Charles' Duchy Originals brand has been ordered to remove claims about the effectiveness of its herbal remedies from its website, after regulators ruled they were "misleading". The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has upheld a complaint over the online advertising of two remedies, Duchy Herbals Echina-Relief Tincture and Duchy Herbals Hyperi-Lift Tincture, which are sold for 10 pounds for 50ml in selected Boots and Waitrose stores.

Although the MHRA has given the company a license to sell the remedies it does not allow them to make any claims about their effects, merely to stress their "traditional use". Since the ruling, made at the end of January but only made public, Duchy Originals has since amended its website and agreed not to make similar claims in any future advertising.

The remedies have been available in stores and through the company's website since the end of January and the MHRA made its ruling after a complaint from a member of the public. The move comes just a week after a leading scientist accused the Prince of "exploiting the gullible" with the Duchy Originals' tinctures.

Prof Edzard Ernst, from the Peninsula Medical School, dismissed one of the remedies, the company's Detox Artichoke and Dandelion Tincture, as "quackery" and dubbed the brand "Dodgy Originals". The Duchy Herbals brand is also being investigated by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) over claims made about its Detox Tincture product.

According to the amended website Duchy Herbals Hyperi-Lift Tincture is a “traditional herbal medicinal product used to relieve the symptoms of slightly low mood and mild anxiety, based on traditional use only.” Similarly Duchy Herbals Echina-Relief Tincture is a “traditional herbal medicinal product used to relive the symptoms of the common cold and influenza type infections.”

A spokesman for Duchy Originals said: “Duchy Herbals Detox Tincture is an excellent and safe product, traded as a food supplement and compliant with all of the relevant sections of both UK and European food laws. It is a natural aid to digestion and supports the body’s natural elimination processes. It is not – and has never been described as – a medicine, remedy or cure for any disease. “There is no “quackery”, no “make believe” and no “superstition” in any of the Duchy Originals herbal tinctures. We find it unfortunate that Professor Ernst should chase sensationalist headlines in this way rather than concentrating on accuracy and objectivity.”


Sunday, March 22, 2009

IVF babies in health alert: Test-tube children 30 per cent more likely to have defects

This is reasonable in theory but runs contrary to some previous reports. This is also a good example of how medical publications use RELATIVE rather than absolute risk to scare people. The raw facts behind the "30% more" are that the risk rises from a small 2.5% risk in natural conceptions to a still small 3.5% risk in IVF conceptions. That creates quite a different impression, doesn't it?

Couples having IVF treatment are to be warned for the first time that their children have a higher risk of genetic flaws and health problems. Official guidance will make clear that test-tube babies could be up to 30 per cent more likely to suffer from certain birth defects. The alert has been ordered by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, the Government's watchdog on fertility issues.

It means that the one in six British couples estimated to be infertile will have to balance their desire for a child against concerns that IVF methods could lead to life-threatening defects or long-term disabilities. A number of studies have already raised concerns over the growing use of the procedure, which accounts for more than 10,000 births in Britain every year.

Research published online last month in the Human Reproduction journal found that IVF babies suffer from higher rates of birth defects than those conceived naturally. The scientists from the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta looked at more than 13,500 births and a further 5,000 control cases using data from the National Birth Defects Prevention Study. They found that IVF babies suffer from a range of conditions, including heart valve defects, cleft lip and palate, and digestive system abnormalities due to the bowel or oesophagus failing to form properly.

In addition, IVF babies have a small but increased risk of rare genetic disorders including Angelman Syndrome, which leads to delays in development, and Beckwith-Wiedemann Syndrome, which can lead to a hole in the abdomen and learning difficulties.

HFEA experts believe parents should be told of the concerns associated with IVF - although they emphasised that not all the risks are fully understood and more research is needed.

One theory is that the fertility drugs which stimulate egg production can lead to poorer quality eggs, which nature would usually weed out. Another is that older women - whose eggs are of a lower quality - are more likely to turn to IVF to conceive.

Until now, official HFEA guidance on the safety of IVF has expressed only limited concerns about babies born by ICSI - where a single sperm is injected into an egg to create an embryo. The method is feared to lead to a doubling of birth defects including genital and urological abnormalities, kidney problems and deformities of the stomach and intestines.

But now the watchdog is to warn generally of the risks associated with all types of the procedure. Patients will be able to access the HFEA's advice on its website from next month, while IVF clinics will have to tell couples of the risks from October.

The HFEA will also make clear that the majority of babies born by IVF are healthy.

Last night, IVF specialist Richard Kennedy, of the British Fertility Society, said: 'We have known for some time that there is a slightly increased risk of abnormalities for all IVF treatments, not just ICSI. 'It is only right that patients should be told about this and it is a good thing that the HFEA is updating its guidance. 'What we need to remember is that the overall risks of an abnormality occurring is increased with IVF but it is still a small risk. Nevertheless, patients still need to be aware.' Around 2.5 per cent of babies in the general population are born with some form of birth defect, while in IVF, this may rise to around 3.5 per cent, he added.

Josephine Quintavalle, of the campaign group Comment on Reproductive Ethics, said: 'IVF should never be the first port of call for someone trying to conceive and we need a lot more money to go into research to help restore fertility for natural conception. 'IVF is often used when couples are "sub-fertile", meaning they take longer to conceive, or by single women wishing to conceive using donor sperm. Patients need to consider the risks.'

An HFEA spokesman said: 'Following the publication of a U.S. study into birth defects, HFEA's Scientific and Clinical Advances Committee reviewed our guidance and advice about the risks. 'As with any medical procedure, it is important patients understand what the treatment involves and what the risks may be. 'Our code of practice says that clinicians must tell patients about the possible side effects and risks of treatment, including any risks for the child. 'Anyone who has concerns about their treatment should discuss this with their doctor.'


The Primal diet: the silliest diet ever?

Hollywood's latest food fad is the most extreme yet. Do not try this at home

John, a 36-year-old from London, is discussing the foods his diet allows. Carrots perhaps? Or quinoa? “I'm very keen on a raw hare carcass,” he says. “Raw mallard is good too. So's raw tongue and raw organ meat. Ideally, it'll have been sitting around for three or four weeks and be really off. Some people like it when it's liquid mush but I prefer it really off, but still so you can stick a fork in it.”

If the Pineapple, Atkins and Cabbage Soup diets seemed extreme, then consider the fanatics worldwide following the latest allegedly detoxifying trend - the Primal Diet, an eating plan consisting of raw meat, eggs and dairy - preferably past their sell-by dates. The diet, the latest to hit Hollywood, was founded by Aajonus (pronounced oj-enus) Vonderplanitz, a 62-year-old nutritionist from California - and it can be only a matter of time before it's endorsed by a twig-thin starlet. The theory is that raw fats bind to the toxins in the body, which are then more readily transported out of the system.

At its most basic level adherents exist on 95 per cent raw meat, including chicken (made more palatable with a marinade of herbs and spices). When they eat out they can rely on culinary classics such as sashimi, steak tartare and beef carpaccio. The remaining 5 per cent is made up with vegetable juices and low-carbohydrate fruits, such as avocados. True aficionados, however, favour “high” meat (so called because of Vonderplanitz's claims that it inspires a natural high), with a small sideorder of rancid unpasteurised yoghurt and fermented vegetables.

“It took me a long time to try high meat because I was scared,” John says. “It does stink like hell and it tastes like an aged raw cheese. The first time I tried it I had to chase it down with a glass of mineral water and I did have a couple of days detoxing, with a bit of diarrhoea. But now my only regret is being squeamish for so long. I used to have all sorts of health problems but now I feel great. I've heard of a couple of people with parasites from it, but I've been doing it for seven years and I haven't died yet.”

John was right to be scared. “Advocating a diet that relies on eating raw meat is simply irresponsible and could be downright dangerous,” says Dr Andrew Wadge, the Food Standards Agency's chief scientist. “It is a simple fact that raw meat may contain harmful bacteria that can cause serious illness and even death. There are still around 500 deaths a year in the UK from food poisoning.”

But “high” primal diet followers say that the risks are worth it. Websites are filled with testimonials claiming that various ailments - including incurable cancers - were cured after a couple of months of rancid raw buffalo.

Vonderplanitz shrugs off any criticism, arguing that doctors have never observed the effects of his diet, while he has witnessed it “reverse 95 per cent of all diseases, while energy, mental clarity and emotional wellbeing are acquired within 30 days to two years”. He does, however, advocate eating rotting meat only if it is organic and free range, ideally grass-fed, and a period of preparing the body by eating fresh raw meat is advised.

A spokeswoman for the Centre for Human Nutrition Research in Cambridge says there has been no research into the possible benefits of eating raw or rotten meat, “because the health risk would be too great”.

But when it comes to squeezing into a bikini, it seems that some people will risk anything. “Fad diets like this are quick-fix solutions,” the spokeswoman says. “We think they'll solve all our problems, even though we know in the long term that they are not sustainable and have no real benefit.”


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Now oranges are unhealthy! Where will the madness stop?

Netball organization bans oranges at half-time -- despite no proof of harm

A juicy stoush is brewing between a state sporting body and citrus growers over the banning of oranges at games because of potential damage to teeth. Netball Queensland, the umbrella body for 82 netball associations, has sanctioned the ban based on the high acid levels of oranges and the potential harm to children's teeth, according to Brisbane's Courier-Mail. "Most of our associations have banned oranges at half-time or are discouraging coaches from offering oranges," said a Netball Queensland spokeswoman.

But Queensland Citrus Growers, which is about to roll out a major campaign promoting fruit at sports games, said it was outrageous to be discouraging children from eating fresh fruit. State manager Chris Simpson said "citrus and kids' sport had been synonymous for generations". "I'd like to see medical research and evidence to prove fruit is unhealthy, particularly fresh citrus," Mr Simpson said.

Netball Queensland's consultant dietitian Kerry Leech said acidity was the problem. "When players come off the court at half-time they're generally a bit dehydrated and the worst thing for teeth in that environment is acid, because it erodes the enamel," Ms Leech said. "So we're encouraging fluids to re-hydrate at half-time rather than eating half an orange."

Dr Derek Lewis from the Australian Dental Association's oral health committee agreed oranges and athletes were not a good mix. Mr Simpson said his organisation was launching a campaign in which hundreds of mandarins would begiven away at sporting functions. "If they're concerned about oranges, why not try an Imperial mandarin?"


When it comes to wound healing, the maggot cleans up

Flesh-eating maggots and blood-sucking leeches might be considered more medieval than modern, but if you want a wound treated with maximum efficiency, few therapies can compete with 200 million years of evolution. A study by a team of British scientists, published today, lends support to the use of the maggot in high-tech healthcare. They found that, left to graze on the skin, maggots can clean wounds that fail to heal five times faster than conventional treatments.

In a trial to investigate the clinical effectiveness of maggots for wound treatment, the leg ulcers of patients treated with larvae were found to heal just as quickly as the water-based gel normally used. The study also showed that the process of debridement — the removal of dead tissue, in this case eaten by the maggots — occurred far faster, suggesting that larvae could be used to clean sites at high speed before urgent surgery, such as skin grafts.

Leeches have also been shown to be a highly effective tool in microsurgery. The excess blood that builds up when an appendage is reattached — because of the inability to link all the broken veins — is drained off with leeches, which can consume five times their weight in a single blood-sucking.

While the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has yet to issue licences for the medical use of maggots and leeches, the US Food and Drug Administration passed both invertebrates for use in 2005.

Britain’s biggest leech and maggot providers, both based in South Wales, have experienced an increase in interest in recent years. At Biopharm, the leech specialist, annual sales have doubled to more than 70,000 of the animals in the past 15 years.

Professor Nicky Cullum, a specialist in wound care, who led the maggot therapy study published in today’s British Medical Journal, said that maggots had cleaned wounds in 14 days — compared with 72 days with gel treatment. She said there was anecdotal evidence of increasing maggot use in the NHS.

The trial, which received health service funding, involved 267 participants who had at least one diseased vein leg ulcer — common in the elderly and those who have suffered deep vein thrombosis. Participants were randomised to receive loose larvae, bagged larvae — where the maggots are placed on the skin inside a gauze bag — or gel during the debridement, followed by standard treatment.

Carl Peters-Bond, the assistant manager at Biopharm, said that he was not surprised at increased interest in the use of maggots, having seen his leech business grow steadily in recent years. “These are creatures that have evolved over millions of years to remove blood or tissue — to do a job.

Nature's nurses

Maggot: (such as Lucilia sericata) Use of maggots for wound healing has been linked to Maya Indians and Aboriginal tribes, as well as during the Renaissance. Military physicians, including Napoleon’s surgeon-general, observed that soldiers whose wounds had become colonised with maggots experienced significantly less morbidity than other wounded soldiers. Maggots were popular into the 1900s, but went out of vogue with the rise of antibiotics

Leech: (such as Hirudo medicinalis) Medical use was first recorded in 200BC, while George Washington is said to have died when too much blood was drained during an illness. The leech is a segmented worm related to the earthworm. The front suction cup has three sharp jaws, each with 125 teeth, that make a Y-shaped bite — leaving a mark compared to the badge of a Mercedes-Benz.

The leech can feed for six hours or more, enough to last it for as long as two years. Leech saliva contains chemicals that prevent clotting, so a wound might bleed for hours after the leech is removed


Friday, March 20, 2009

Being overweight 'can reduce lifespan by three years'

The journal abstract is here. This is an analysis of a large number of studies (though of unknown representativeness) and confirms the usual finding that people of middling weight are the healthiest. What is stressed below are extreme cases, however. The statistics actually provided by the study suggest that the overall correlation between weight and ill health is very weak

Being four stone overweight can cut your life by up to three years, according to a new study. Severely obese people can lose 10 years from their life, researchers found: the same effect as long-term smoking. Almost one in four people in Britain are now obese, official statistics show, and experts predict that the problem will mushroom in coming decades.

The latest study looked at the effect that weight had on the lifespan of almost 900,000 men and women. It found that those with the lowest deaths rates had a "normal" weight, judged to be a Body Mass Index (BMI) of between 22.5 and 25. BMI is a ratio of weight in kilograms versus height in metres.

For every five points, or one band on the BMI scale, above a healthy weight, overall risk of death increased by almost one third, 30 per cent, the study found. Jumping an entire band caused death rates from diabetes, liver and kidney disease to increase by between 60 and 120 per cent. Deaths from heart disease and stroke rose by 40 per cent, while lung disease increased by 20 per cent and cancer 10 per cent.

Dr Gary Whitlock, from the University of Oxford, who led the trial said: "Excess weight shortens human lifespan. "In countries like Britain and America, weighing a third more than the optimum shortens lifespan by about 3 years. "For most people, a third more than the optimum means carrying 20 to 30kg - 50 to 60 pounds or 4 stone - of excess weight. "If you are becoming overweight or obese, avoiding further weight gain could well add years to your life."

He and his team looked at 57 previous studies to make their calculations. Those who had a low BMI also had a higher death rate, they found, mainly due to smoking-related diseases. The research, published online by The Lancet medical journal, showed that severe obesity, measured as a BMI of between 40 to 50, while rare, was as dangerous for the body as smoking.

Dr Whitlock added: "In adult life, it may be easier to avoid substantial weight gain than to lose that weight once it has been gained. "By avoiding a further increase from a BMI of 28 to 32 a typical person in early middle age would gain about two years of life expectancy. "Alternatively, by avoiding an increase from a BMI of 24 to 32, a third above the apparent optimum, a young adult would on average gain about three extra years of life."

A person's BMI is calculated by dividing their weight in kilograms by their height in metres squared.


A bowl of porridge in the morning 'will make you feel fuller for longer'

I had porridge for breakfast for the first 16 years of my life and I certainly felt sustained by it. I was very slim then too!

Eating a bowl of porridge in the morning really will keep you feeling fuller for longer, scientists have discovered, in what could be the key to how the GI diet works. A new study suggests that foods with a low glycaemic index (GI), like oats, trigger the release of greater amounts of a hormone in the gut which delays hunger pangs by creating a "full" sensation. Scientists previously knew that a low GI diet took longer to digest, releasing sugar more slowly into the bloodstream.

Now a team of researchers have discovered that foods with a low GI score, which include brown bread and most fruit and vegetables, stimulate the release of around 20 per cent more of the GLP-1 hormone per meal than foods with a high GI ratio.

Dr Reza Norouzy, who led the study, said that the chemical was "one of the most potent hormones for suppressing appetite". She added:"Our results suggest that low GI meals lead to a feeling of fullness because of increased levels of GLP-1 in the bloodstream. "This is an exciting result which provides further clues about how our appetite is regulated, and offers an insight into how a low GI diet produces satiety."

The team, from King's College London, looked at the effects of different diets on 12 healthy volunteers. The results of their findings were presented at the annual Society for Endocrinology BES meeting in Harrogate. The GI score ranks carbohydrates according to the effect that they on the body's blood sugar levels.

Foods classed as having a low GI include granary bread, milk, most fruit and vegetables, while high GI foods include white bread, croissants and cornflakes.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Long-term ozone exposure linked to higher risk of death, finds nationwide study

The increased risk is quite small -- of a magnitude that could well be random. If real, the risk could also be due to other factors -- such as urban crowding and the consequent increased exposure to pathogens

Long-term exposure to ground-level ozone, a major component of smog, is associated with an increased risk of death from respiratory ailments, according to a new nationwide study led by a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley.

The study, to be published in the March 12 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, analyzed the risk of death for both ozone and fine particulate matter, two of the most prevalent components of air pollution. The study followed nearly 450,000 people for two decades and covered 96 metropolitan regions in the United States.

The researchers found that people living in areas with the highest concentrations of ozone, such as the Los Angeles metropolitan area and California's Central Valley, had a 25 to 30 percent greater annual risk of dying from respiratory diseases compared with people from regions with the lowest levels of the pollutant. Those locations included the Great Plains area and regions near San Francisco and Seattle.

"This is the first time we've been able to connect chronic exposure to ozone, one of the most widespread pollutants in the world, with the risk of death, arguably the most important outcome in health impact studies used to justify air quality regulations," said study lead author Michael Jerrett, UC Berkeley associate professor of environmental health sciences. "Previous research has connected short-term or acute ozone exposure to impaired lung function, aggravated asthma symptoms, increased emergency room visits and hospitalizations, but the impact of long-term exposure to ozone on mortality had not been pinned down until now."

The study found that for every 10 parts-per-billion (ppb) increase in ozone level, there is a 4 percent increase in risk of death from respiratory causes, primarily pneumonia and chronic pulmonary obstructive pulmonary disease.

"World Health Organization data indicate that about 240,000 people die each year from respiratory causes in the United States," said Jerrett. "Even a 4 percent increase can translate into thousands of excess deaths each year. Globally, some 7.7 million people die from respiratory causes, so worldwide the impact of ozone pollution could be very large."

The findings come a year after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) strengthened its National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ground-level ozone from an annual average of 80 ppb to 75 ppb to reflect growing evidence of the harmful health effects of ozone. A group of leading scientists appointed to advise the EPA had actually recommended stricter health standards for ozone levels - from 60 to 70 ppb.

A month after the EPA released its new standards, a National Research Council report concluded that premature deaths related to ozone exposure of less than 24 hours are more likely among those with pre-existing diseases. The report called for more research on the link between mortality and ozone exposure over a period of weeks and years.

Ozone - gas made up of three oxygen atoms - forms a protective layer from the sun's ultraviolet radiation when located in the Earth's upper atmosphere. However, that same gas is toxic at ground level where it can be breathed by humans. Ground level ozone is formed through a complex chemical reaction in sunlight between nitrogen oxides (NOx), commonly spewed from vehicle exhaust, and industrial factory emissions.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change considers ground-level ozone, along with carbon dioxide and methane, to be one of the primary greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere.

"Ozone levels outdoors are not always highly correlated to ozone levels indoors, making it difficult to fully evaluate associations between ozone and health outcomes using ambient site monitors," said study co-author C. Arden Pope III, professor of economics at Brigham Young University. "The reality is that most of us spend the majority of our time indoors. But this study suggests that repeated exposures to elevated ozone levels over time have cumulative effects on respiratory health."

The new study analyzed data from 448,850 adults ages 30 and older enrolled in 1982 and 1983 in the American Cancer Society Cancer Prevention Study II.

The researchers correlated the information from that study with data from EPA air pollution monitors while controlling for potentially confounding factors such as a participant's age, race, education, occupational exposures, smoking history and diet. The study also factored in other variables such as unemployment rates in the metropolitan and zip code area levels.

Ozone data were obtained from 1977 through 2000 between the months of April and September. Those months were chosen because ozone levels are typically higher when it's warmer and because insufficient data was available during the cooler months.

Researchers included EPA measurements of fine particulate matter - particles equal to or smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter and typically found in smoke and haze - when they became available in 1999 and 2000. Because fine particle levels had already been linked to increased risk of premature death in previous studies, the researchers included them in the analysis to distinguish the effects of the two pollutants.

In an 18-year follow-up period, 48,884 of the people in the study died from cardiovascular causes such as heart disease and strokes, and 9,891 died from respiratory causes.

As has been observed in previous studies, the researchers found that fine particulate matter was linked to an increased risk of death from cardiovascular causes when analyzed alone and with ozone. The new finding was that the effects of ozone remained strongly linked to risk of death from respiratory problems, even after fine particle pollution was taken into account.

Not surprisingly, highly populated regions such as the Los Angeles, Riverside and Houston areas, where the climate is sunny for much of the year and the air mass is relatively stable, had the highest average concentrations of ozone, ranging from 62.5 to 104 ppb. The regions with the lowest ozone levels had average concentrations of 33.3 to 53.1 ppb.

"Places like the Pacific Northwest and the Minneapolis St. Paul region are cooler and see more rain in the summer, which keeps the ozone levels in check," said Jerrett. "Similarly, the San Francisco Bay Area's infamous summertime fog blocks the sun and helps protect the region from high ozone levels."

Because ozone formation depends on a complex interaction of multiple factors, it is challenging to regulate, the study authors said. "Our study for the first time presents evidence suggesting that long-term exposure to ozone and fine particle pollution have separate, independent effects on mortality, and that they seem to impact different parts of the body," said Jerrett. "With this research, we now know that controlling ozone is not only beneficial for mitigating global warming, but that it could also have near-term benefits in the reduction of deaths from respiratory causes."


Fresh mushrooms 'slashes breast cancer risk' (in China)

I don't know enough about the social correlates of diet in China but I suspect that including mushrooms in your diet is more expensive than usual and so mushroom consumption is more a sign of higher social status than anything else -- and middle class women everywhere are healthier than others

Eating a daily portion of mushrooms could slash the risk of breast cancer by up to two-thirds, according to new research. Scientists found women consuming a third of an ounce of fresh mushrooms every day were 64 per cent less likely to develop a tumour. Dried mushrooms had a slightly less protective effect, reducing the risk by around half. The study, carried out in China, also showed women who combined a mushroom diet with regular consumption of green tea saw an even greater benefit. The risk among women in this group was reduced by almost 90 per cent.

Researchers say the latest findings, published in the International Journal of Cancer, do not prove eating mushrooms will stop cancer and more studies are needed to confirm the results. But laboratory tests on animals do show the fungi have anti-tumour properties and can stimulate the immune system's defences. Some evidence suggests mushrooms act in a similar way to breast cancer drugs called aromatose inhibitors, which blocks the body's production of the cancer-feeding hormone oestrogen. Last month, scientists in California began a trial to see if taking mushroom extract twice a day for a month helps breast cancer survivors remain free of the disease.

Around 40,000 women a year in Britain are diagnosed with breast cancer. The disease affects one in nine women at some point in their lives. Diet is thought to be a key factor. Rates of the disease in China are four to five times lower than in some western countries.

Experts at the University of Western Australia in Perth studied more than 2,000 Chinese women. Roughly half the women had suffered breast cancer, while the rest were tumour-free. After taking account of other factors that could have contributed to cancer, such as being overweight, lack of exercise and smoking, scientists analysed eating habits. They found women who ate ten grammes or more a day of fresh or dried mushrooms were much less likely to have developed a tumour.

Those also drinking green tea slashed their cancer risk even further. In a report on the findings the researchers said: 'Higher intake of mushrooms decreased cancer risk in both pre and post menopausal Chinese women.'


Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Zombie science: A sinister consequence of evaluating scientific theories purely on the basis of enlightened self-interest

By Bruce G. Charlton, MD


Although the classical ideal is that scientific theories are evaluated by a careful teasing-out of their internal logic and external implications, and checking whether these deductions and predictions are in-line-with old and new observations; the fact that so many vague, dumb or incoherent scientific theories are apparently believed by so many scientists for so many years is suggestive that this ideal does not necessarily reflect real world practice. In the real world it looks more like most scientists are quite willing to pursue wrong ideas for so long as they are rewarded with a better chance of achieving more grants, publications and status.

The classic account has it that bogus theories should readily be demolished by sceptical (or jealous) competitor scientists. However, in practice even the most conclusive 'hatchet jobs' may fail to kill, or even weaken, phony hypotheses when they are backed-up with sufficient economic muscle in the form of lavish and sustained funding. And when a branch of science based on phony theories serves a useful but non-scientific purpose, it may be kept-going indefinitely by continuous transfusions of cash from those whose interests it serves.

If this happens, real science expires and a 'zombie science' evolves. Zombie science is science that is dead but will not lie down. It keeps twitching and lumbering around so that (from a distance, and with your eyes half-closed) zombie science looks much like the real thing. But in fact the zombie has no life of its own; it is animated and moved only by the incessant pumping of funds. If zombie science is not scientifically-useable - what is its function?

In a nutshell, zombie science is supported because it is useful propaganda to be deployed in arenas such as political rhetoric, public administration, management, public relations, marketing and the mass media generally. It persuades, it constructs taboos, it buttresses some kind of rhetorical attempt to shape mass opinion. Indeed, zombie science often comes across in the mass media as being more plausible than real science; and it is precisely the superficial face-plausibility which is the sole and sufficient purpose of zombie science.

Medical Hypotheses, Volume 71, Issue 3, Pages 327-329 (September 2008)

Sandwich box Stasi: British parents' fury over school which inspects lunches and confiscates junk food

A primary school has been accused of running a 'mealtime Gestapo' after insisting on inspecting children's lunchboxes for unhealthy food. If pupils are found to have sweets, chocolate, fizzy drinks or full-fat crisps, teachers confiscate them and hold them in the staffroom. The snacks are returned at the end of the day but only if parents ask.

One parent, Magdi Cullen, said she was shocked when her nine-year-old daughter Maria told her about the policy at Danegrove Primary School in Barnet, North London. Mrs Cullen, 34, of Cockfosters, said: 'When I found out about what they were doing, I thought, "This is a primary school, not Guantanamo Bay". 'I can't believe that teachers go through their lunchboxes because there might be something like a small chocolate bar. 'My daughter has a sandwich and an apple as well, but now she has to hide a small box of Smarties I give her. It's just not right. 'The school is very good apart from this and we can't fault it in any way academically.'

Her husband, wine vendor Jerry Cullen, 51, said: 'The whole situation is ridiculous and the teachers are acting like the mealtime Gestapo by going through their lunchboxes. The crisps have to be approved healthy ones and they can cost a small fortune.'

Parents were sent a letter informing them of the strict meal searches. The letter warned: 'Lots of unsuitable items have been sneaking in lately. Therefore, we will have to look after such items until the end of the day in order to be fair to everybody. 'So chocolate and other unhealthy foods found in packed lunch boxes will be taken to the office for collection by parents at the end of the day.' The school said in a statement-At Danegrove School: We are following the Government's healthy lunches guidelines for school meals and packed lunches. 'We advise that that all pupils consume a well balanced meal at midday in order to promote healthy eating and maximise the children's potential learning in the afternoon sessions.'

Headmistress Deborah Metcalf said: 'We were finding that some children could be bringing in crisps, a Mars bar and can of Coke with their lunches. This stance is trying to work with parents to provide a healthy meal for their children.' Danegrove is not the first school to cause controversy with its healthy eating policies.

In 2007, Standish High School in Wigan banned pupils from leaving the school grounds at lunchtime, stopping them from going to fast food outlets. Some children phoned a local sandwich delivery man who came to the school and passed his wares through the gates. However, teachers complained and the sandwich seller was asked to move on by police.