Monday, November 30, 2009

Tall people face ups, downs

There has long been evidence that tall people are favoured in many ways and the links to illness could be a byproduct of that. Just to name one possibility: Tall men tend to be much more successful with the ladies and that could influence a number of lifestyle factors with health consequences. That tallness of itself is in any way unhealthy is not proven

TALL people are more likely to earn the big bucks, but they're also at increased risk of some cancers, research shows. Brisbane geneticist Brian McEvoy said studies had found taller people were more likely to be diagnosed with thyroid, breast, pancreatic and bowel cancers than their vertically challenged colleagues. But he said short people had more chance of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and osteoarthritis.

Dr McEvoy and colleague Peter Visscher, of the Queensland Institute of Medical Research, reviewed 70 scientific studies on human height to get the long and short on how stature affects health. Their findings will be published in the December edition of the journal, Economics and Human Biology.

Dr McEvoy said about 50 genes had been linked to height in the past two years, but geneticists believed hundreds, possibly thousands, of genes were involved. Although genes are believed to be responsible for about 80 per cent of the height differences between people, environmental factors – such as diet and disease exposure – are also important. For example, Dr McEvoy said Dutch men were on average 19cm taller today than they were 150 years ago, probably because of improved diets and better health care.

Studies of genes involved in height are already shedding some light on diseases such as cancer and osteoarthritis. One of the first genes to be associated with height, known as HMG2A, has been found to be over-abundant in many types of cancerous tumours while another height-linked gene, GDF5, is believed to be involved in osteoarthritis. "People with lower levels of GDF5 protein tend to have shorter bones and less cartilage, leading to increased wear and tear at their joints and the pain and movement problems that characterise osteoarthritis," Dr McEvoy said. "Plausible genetic routes are beginning to emerge to biologically explain the statistical correlation between height and many health outcomes."

Dr McEvoy said a clear link had also been found between being tall and improved socioeconomic outcomes. "One Australian study found that a 10cm increase in height was associated with a 3 per cent increase in hourly wages," he said. "Why that is, I'm not so sure. One suggestion is that taller people may grow up to be more confident and that comes through in later life. "If you're taller as a child, perhaps you grow up to have a better self-image and that leads to better interpersonal skills and that, perhaps, leads to earning more."

Dr McEvoy said the results were not "predictive of any particular individual".


Nutty Swedes hit on nail beds as cutting-edge cure-all

The famously pain-resistant Vikings might have approved of the latest fad sweeping Sweden. Nail beds are becoming popular with health-conscious consumers convinced that lying on rubber pads embedded with sharp, plastic pins is good for them. Hindu fakirs favour a wooden bed bristling with metal nails, but the spiky foam version does the job nicely, says Catarina Rolfsdotter-Jansson, a 46-year-old yoga instructor and writer who uses one every day and describes it as being “quite painful actually”. “The back looks picked at, as if with a fork”, when a person gets up off the mat. But then “you relax and feel nice again”, she told The New York Times.

Users often claim relief from insomnia, migraines and asthma, while a more zealous group believes that the mat can cure everything from schizophrenia to dandruff. At times these Nordic nail bed devotees seem like a cult: 3,000 of them gathered recently in a Stockholm park, placing their mats in the form of the rays of the sun. They sang mantras and fell asleep.

Not everyone is convinced of the benefits, however. The Svenska Dagbladet newspaper concluded recently that there was “nothing that even approaches a scientific proof for the effects” of the nail bed. In response, the largest manufacturer is organising medically supervised trials to monitor 30 regular users. “We’re doing a clinical test to see what happens in the body,” said Max Hoffmann, who recently gave up a job at Ikea, the furniture giant, to become marketing director for Shakti mats, named after the Hindu fertility goddess. “We’re not looking for what the mat can heal, but what happens to the body — you know, blood pressure, heart rate, body temperature.”

The mats measure 16in by 28in, contain from 4,000 to 8,000 spikes — the fewer the spikes, the more they hurt — and range in price from £30 to £70. Several brands are sold in Stockholm fitness shops and over the internet. Manufacturers are looking forward to a bonanza over Christmas.

One of the pioneers was Susanna Lindelow, of CuraComp, which has made about 100,000 mats in the past year. She discovered nail beds in her quest for relief from severe lower back pain. “I had tried a lot of things,” she said. Nothing worked. As a last resort, she bought a Russian-made nail bed by mail order. She was so impressed with the result that she had a demonstration model made in plastic, then went into production.

Swedes have been buying them since, many in the hope of soothing aches and pains associated with the cyber-generation. “Swedes sit too much in front of the computer, they don’t walk enough, they don’t stretch enough,” said Rolfsdotter-Jansson. “People find this [nail bed] helps.”

Some are waiting for the price to go down before buying their nail bed: it is expected that the market will soon be flooded by cheaper imports from China. One day, no doubt, they will be on offer at Ikea.


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Toss Out the Myths With the Embalming Fluid

Activists like journalism professor Michael Pollan are quick to blame foods in our “Western diet” for a smorgasbord of problems -- heart disease being the most recent one. But a new investigation stuffs this foodie blame-game in a sarcophagus. Researchers examining Egyptian mummies discovered that our predecessors 3,500 years ago also suffered from hardened arteries, and they didn’t eat fast food. As The Wall Street Journal reports:
[Researchers] were able to identify the hearts, arteries or both in 16 of the mummies, nine of whom had deposits of calcification …

"Not only do we have atherosclerosis [artery hardening] now, it was prevalent as long as 3,500 years ago," said Gregory Thomas, a cardiologist and imaging specialist at University of California, Irvine, who was principal investigator of the study. "It is part of the human condition."

You wouldn’t think that it’s a “human condition” by listening to trial lawyers like John “Sue the Bastards” Banzhaf, though. Banzhaf and his fellow sharks make a living pushing the idea that foods — specifically, fast foods — are to blame for health problems like widening waistlines, and have filed a number of frivolous “obesity lawsuits” based on this premise. (Thankfully, these have been laughed out of court, both the legal and public-opinion kind.)

Hopefully, today’s news put a nail in the coffin of the idea that fast food — or any modern culinary convenience — is a unique cause of heart disease. As one of the researchers noted, heart disease “is as old as the pyramids.” So, likely, are super-sized food superstitions.


Food fanaticism: Go hungry rather than have "incorrect" food

Two different reactions by two NYC charities below. Only one has a heart

1). When a small church comes to the Bowery Mission bearing fried chicken with trans fat, unwittingly breaking the law, they’re told “thank you.” Then workers quietly chuck the food, mission director Tom Bastile said. “It’s always hard for us to do,” Basile said. “We know we have to do it.”

2). A Manhattan deli going out of business delivered a pickup truck’s worth of lettuce, sundried tomatoes, hamburgers, sausages and other food to the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen last week. With 1,400 meals to serve daily, Operations Manager Michael Ottley was extremely grateful. He didn’t check the trans fat content of the food.

Lines at soup kitchens are up by 21 percent this year, according to a NYC Coalition Against Hunger report released yesterday. The city’s law banishing trans fat took effect in July 2008 and touched everyone with Health Department food licenses — including emergency food providers.

Less than 5 percent of donated food still has the artificial fat, Ottley estimated, but he said, “I can’t in good conscience throw away food.”


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Chocolates work 'like anti-depressants'

If you believe rat research that did not actually use chocolates

AUSTRALIAN scientists have confirmed what chocoholics have been praying is true - their favourite comfort food can reduce stress. Food rich in fat and sugar can alter chemical composition in the brain to reduce anxiety, professor Margaret Morris said.

In a study of rats, Professor Morris, from the University of NSW's School of Medical Sciences, found effects of past trauma could be erased by "unlimited access to yummy food". "Implementing that diet reversed anxiety ... it took an animal back to the non-stressed state," Professor Morris said. "We really don't know why, but there seems to be a biochemical link."

Using two groups of baby rats, one with normal contact with mothers, the other with lengthy separations and higher stress hormones, scientists found they became less stressed with comfort foods. "The control group had no effect from the diet really, but the stressed animals had a deficit ... which was restored by the diet." "(The) food seems to affect neurogenesis similar to the way anti-depressants promote nerve growth in the brain."


Tiny hidden disc 'can wipe out skin cancer'

A disc the size of a fingernail that destroys the most dangerous form of skin cancer has been developed by scientists. Fitted under the skin, the tiny device wiped out melanoma in up to half of the cases it was tested on. It paves the way for a treatment with improved prognosis and fewer side-effects than traditional anti-cancer drugs. The disc, which measures 8.5mm across, uses proteins usually found on skin tumours as 'bait' to trigger a powerful immune response.

The process begins with the disc, which is porous and loaded with a cocktail of compounds, being implanted under the skin. It releases proteins that lure immune-system messengers inside the disc. There, they spot the tumour proteins planted as bait and kickstart a chain of reactions which culminate in specialised white blood cells hunting down and destroying the tumour itself. The cells are programmed to attack only the tumour, sparing healthy cells from damage, and the body from side effects such as hair loss and nausea.

The manipulation of the immune system means the disc is classed as a vaccine, even though it would be used to treat cancer, rather than prevent it.

When mice with large melanomas were treated, tumours were eliminated in up to half of cases. In contrast, untreated animals rapidly succumbed, the journal Science Translational Medicine reports.

The work, at Harvard University in the U.S., is at an early stage but suggests a similar device could be used to combat skin cancer in people. The scientists believe their technique is simpler than vaccine treatments under development. Researcher Professor David Mooney said: 'We've taken a major step toward the design of effective cancer vaccines.'


Friday, November 27, 2009

Looking on the bright side

Pointing out how one-sided food alarmism is. I don't think they get it wholly right but it is a big advance on most food advice

They say a bit of what you fancy does you good. But what good can a few rashers of bacon, a glass of wine and a scoop of ice cream be doing for you? More than you think. Here, we highlight the hidden benefits in a few of your favourite things.

Jam: Undeniably high in sugar, but preserves have an unexpected health benefit. A study by the Institute of Food Research in Norwich, UK, has found that pectin, a natural gelling agent, can block the progress of cancer through the body by "sticking" to the protein Gal3, which causes tumour growth.

Bacon: When eaten in moderation, bacon could be considered a superfood. Almost half the fat content is monounsaturated, which is known to lower cholesterol levels. And its monounsaturated content comes from oleic acid, the same "good" fat found in olive oil.

Cheddar cheese: It may not be great for your waistline or your heart - your recommended daily intake of saturates is contained in just three sandwich-size slices. However, it is good for your teeth, and not just because it's high in calcium. A cube of cheddar after a meal will neutralise the acids in your mouth, thus helping to prevent tooth decay.

Ice cream: A scoop of ice cream can give your mood a noticeable lift. A study by the Institute of Psychiatry in London has found out why - because eating ice cream can light up the brain's pleasure zones. Just once lick is enough to stimulate the orbitofrontal cortex, the main processing area and the part of the brain associated with the pleasures of sex and eating.

Potatoes: When kept away from the fryer, the humble spud packs a nutritional punch. American scientists have identified 60 different types of phytochemicals and vitamins in potato skins - many of which help lower cholesterol and protect against heart disease - while researchers at the Institute for Food Research have found they contain blood-pressure lowering molecules called kukoamines.

Coffee: Gym bunnies, take note: sinking an espresso boosts the fat-burning potential of cardiovascular exercise. Caffeine dilates blood vessels, thus increasing the flow of blood and oxygen to muscles. A post-workout americano can reduce aches, too. Coffee also stimulates the release of cholecystokinin, a hormone which inhibits cholesterol build-up in the gallbladder.

And, of course, chocolate: With its ability to boost "feel-good" endorphin levels, chocolate has long been used as a mood-lifter. But it can also improve the brain's ability to do mental arithmetic. A team of volunteers found that mathematical equations became easier after they ate dark chocolate, which is rich in flavonoids which improve the function of blood vessels and promote oxygen flow to the brain.

If you needed another excuse to eat it, chocolate might also help you lose weight. Last week, a new brand of chocolate was launched which claims to trick your brain into believing you aren't hungry. Called Lola, the sweets are cholesterol-free, and are said to help digestion by boosting a healthy level of intestinal bacteria.

Its Spanish inventors recommend that you eat one or two chocolates before a meal, to help you feel full. The only drawback - apart from the price (pounds 5 for a box of five) and the fact that it's only available in Spain - is the slight green tinge, which comes from its special ingredient spirulina, a nutrient-rich algae.

And red wine: Prepare to raise your glass to some cheering news. Last week, a study found that moderate alcohol consumption can protect against heart disease. The report showed that drinking up to 30 grams of alcohol a day, the equivalent of one large glass of red wine, reduced the risk of heart disease by half. The effect was not seen for all forms of alcohol. Increasing consumption does not improve the protective effect, and raises the risk of cancer, accidents, mental health problems and liver cirrhosis.

Drinking up to two glasses of red wine a day has also long been thought to improve your brain power. Dr Clinton Wright, professor of neurology at Columbia University, New York, found that moderate drinkers score higher in mental acuity tests than those who never touch alcohol. It is known that resveratrol, a compound found in grape skins, promotes healthy blood flow to the brain. Studies suggest that it also boosts your immune system.

While too much alcohol is linked to high blood pressure, liver problems and infertility, resveratrol has been variously linked to fighting cancer, obesity, diabetes, and even the signs of old age. Results from a new laboratory study, published earlier this month, suggest it may also slow the formation of the amyloid plaques associated with Alzheimer's disease.

Bad for you, actually

Tofu: Tofu (bean curd) is assumed to be the healthiest of foods, as it is low in calories, relatively high in protein and iron and has no saturated fat or cholesterol. However, like other soya products, research suggests it may be harmful to male fertility.

Orange juice: It is packed with vitamins and count towards your five-a-day. But the high sucrose content of orange juice attacks the enamel on your teeth and can increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes.

Wholemeal bread: Fibre-packed wholemeal bread could also be laden with sugar. Professor Peter Whorwell, an expert on irritable bowel syndrome, says that fibre-rich foods should also be reconsidered as key elements of healthy diets. "Adding a bulking agent in the form of fibre gives the bowel more work to do, so if you're constipated it is likely to worsen symptoms. "

Smoothies: The fruity goodness may be outweighed by the number of calories as smoothies are loaded with natural sugar.

Yoghurt: This healthy snack can be damaging to the teeth. Bacteria in the milk can react with sugars in the food, triggering acid production and enamel erosion.

Apples: An apple a day may well keep the doctor away, but it will also keep the dentist busy. Eating apples can contain the equivalent of four teaspoons of sugar.

Sushi: Oily fish such as salmon and tuna are rich in healthy omega 3, but they may also be high in mercury.


Obesity Is Caused by Low Minimum Wage

Before you embark on this fun weekend of overeating (I know I am), you might be happy to know that whatever weight you put on won't be your fault. It is the fault of our low real minimum wage. This recent study by David Meltzer at the University of Chicago and Zhuo Chen of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that low inflation-adjusted minimum wages are partly to blame for increased obesity.

Here is why: People are fatter. That's because they eat too much. And that's because the food is getting cheaper everyday, especially "fast food." But that's because wages in real term have "declined by as much as half over 1968-2007 and because minimum wage labor is a major contributor to the cost of food away from home," the authors explain.

Getting it? So in order for America to slim down, we need to increase the minimum wage to make the cost of labor and the price of fast food higher. While we are at it we need to increase the tax on soda and sugary drinks. And we need to impose a surtax on turkey and all of these yummy Thanksgiving goodies that you will be overconsuming this weekend.

Thankfully, the jury is not convinced of the relationship between obesity and low wages. Also, the science and the economics have come out against many of the assertions that taxing sugary drinks would reduce obesity.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Hungry Jack's criticized over monster burger

"Hungry Jack's" is the Australian branch of America's "Burger King". When something is attacked by "the chairman of the Sydney World Action on Salt and Health", you know you are dealing with an attention-seeking fraud -- and you can be pretty sure that the truth is the reverse of what he says -- since a low salt diet REDUCES your lifespan. The full range of scientific evidence shows NO basis for the salt phobia. Salt deficiency ("hyponatremia") is however a major cause of death in some settings. Google it

HEALTH experts are demanding warning labels be put on a new burger that contains almost twice as much saturated fat and 40 per cent more salt than the recommended daily intakes. Hungry Jack's double Angry Angus, packed with deep fried onion rings, two slices of cheese, two beef patties and several rashers of bacon, contains 26 grams of saturated fat and 5.6 grams of salt - 10 grams more saturated fat and 1.6 grams more salt than the daily intake recommended by the National Health and Medical Research Council.

Eating the Angry Angus would cause a diner's blood pressure to rise immediately and eating it regularly would cause chronic high blood pressure, leading to heart attack, kidney failure and stroke, the chairman of the Sydney World Action on Salt and Health, Bruce Neal, said yesterday. Children who eat a high sodium diet risk developing obesity, asthma and high blood pressure. "Hungry Jack's appears to have little commitment to the health of their consumers. In the context of our national obesity crisis this type of product is reckless," Professor Neal said.

Australians should eat one to two grams of salt a day but most ate about nine grams, he said. If that was cut to six grams, the chances of heart attack or stroke would drop 15 to 20 per cent. "If manufacturers were forced to use front-of-pack warnings, they would reform their products pretty quickly to ensure they didn't have to carry that label," he said.

The chief executive of the Heart Foundation, Tony Thirlwell, said the company was behaving irresponsibly. "The burger has a great title because it makes me doubly angry. It is highly disappointing that a manufacturer in modern-day Australia would consider serving this to people. "To think that you could have only one of these burgers every two days and nothing else is a ridiculous idea." [It's the food "standards" that are ridiculous]

He called on food manufacturers to put pressure on Hungry Jack's to act responsibly before the Government was forced to step in, banning or taxing high-calorie meals. "This behaviour is not in the best interests of the food industry or the consumers because this burger can cause serious heart disease." [Proof?]

Hungry Jack's did not respond to the Herald's inquiries but late yesterday altered the nutritional figures on its website, lowering the saturated fat content for the double Angry Angus to 21.3 grams and salt to 4.5 grams.

An associate professor in nutrition and dietetics at the University of Newcastle, Clare Collins, said people needed protection against "monster foods". "It's shocking," she said. "We don't need a burger like this. It should carry a message saying 'increase your health premium now because you'll need it for your coronary care'."

A survey this year found three-quarters of sandwiches and burgers sold by McDonald's, Subway, Oporto, Red Rooster, KFC and Hungry Jack's contained over half the maximum daily allowance of salt in a single serve.


Pain drug morphine may cause cancer to spread

Another meltdown for conventional medical wisdom?

Morphine used to relieve the pain of cancer may actually cause the disease to spread, scientists claimed today. Laboratory tests suggest the opium-based drug promotes the growth of new blood vessels which deliver oxygen and nutrients to tumours. Dr Patrick Singleton told an American Association for Cancer Research summit that morphine also appeared to make it easier for cancers to invade other tissues.

But he said this could be overcome by a drug - methylnaltrexone or MNTX - developed in the 1980s to prevent morphine-related constipation. The drug, which was only recently approved in the U.S. appears to work without interfering with the pain-relieving properties of the opiate. In mice with lung cancer, MNTX inhibited the apparent tumour-promoting effects of opiates, and reduced the spread of cancer in the mice by 90 per cent.

‘If confirmed clinically, this could change how we do surgical anaesthesia for our cancer patients,’ said Dr Singleton, of the University of Chicago Medical Centre, told the meeting of fellow experts in Boston. ‘It also suggests potential new applications for this novel class of drugs which should be explored.’

The tests were started after his colleague, anaesthetist Jonathan Moss, noted that several patients receiving this kind of opiate blocker survived longer than might be expected after surgery.

Dr Laura Bell of Cancer Research UK said the drugs had a long history of providing effective pain relief. ‘Research in this area is in the early stages, so it’s too early to tell whether opiate-based painkillers have an effect on cancer growth. ‘Much more research would be needed to justify changing the way opiates are used to treat people with cancer.’

Speaking at a meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in Boston, they also claim to have found a drug which counters this effect. Cancer Research UK said more tests were needed before any changes in treatment.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Mobile cancer scare 'all in your head'

MOBILE phones appear to be "very safe", says an expert who points out that people were initially suspicious about mains power and microwaves. Professor Rodney Croft, executive director of The Australian Centre for Radiofrequency Bioeffects Research (ACRBR), says concerns over the location of mobile phone base stations should similarly dissipate over time.

"There really isn't a great deal of difference between your basic FM radio antenna and your base station's antennas," Prof Croft says. "Radio transmissions have been around for a long, long time and people don't seem to mind being exposed to that."

Prof Croft, who is Professor of Health Psychology at the University of Wollongong, says humans have "a tendency to be suspicious of all new things". "When microwave ovens first came out there was a great deal of suspicion about them, when mains power came out there was a great deal of suspicion about it," he says. "People do move on . . . providing, of course, no science comes out showing it is more dangerous. And certainly the centre's view is that's not likely to happen."

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is soon to release its Interphone study, a decade-long investigation into the health implications of mobile phone use. The report could be released before the year's end, and there is speculation it will draw a definitive link between long-term mobile phone use and an increased risk of brain tumours.

But Prof Croft rejects this. He says the WHO is expected to discount some of the research which highlighted cancer links as methodologically flawed and "clearly not correct". "But it will still leave open the possibility that long-term effects have not been looked at adequately, and may turn out to be a problem," Prof Croft says. "It all seems to be pointing to the same thing... that there is not a problem (with mobile phone use). "Our perspective is that we don't see any science indicating a health effect. It really looks very safe."

Prominent Sydney brain surgeon Dr Charlie Teo last month warned people should "err on the side of safety" and take simple steps to reduce their exposure. Dr Teo says mobile phones should be used on loudspeaker while other electronic devices, such as a clock radio, should be placed at the base instead of the head of the bed. [The head of a Centre for Radiofrequency Bioeffects Research versus a surgeon with no expertise in the subject]


The Statinator Paradox

Pity the poor lipophobes and statinators. They’ve just taken another grievous wound to their favorite theory and haven’t even got sense enough to know it. In fact, not only do they not have sense enough to realize they’ve taken the hit, they’re actually crowing about it.

The current issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has an article titled Trends in High Levels of Low-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol in the United States, 1999-2006 that puts another major dent in whatever validity remains of the lipid hypothesis of heart disease.

I’m going to start categorizing the types of findings published in this paper under the rubric of The Statinator Paradox. I find it interesting that whenever scientists discover data that shows the opposite of what their hypotheses predict, they don’t conclude that their hypotheses might be wrong; instead they deem the contradiction a ‘paradox’ and bumble on ahead with their hypotheses intact.

The lipophobes hold the hypothesis dear that saturated fat causes heart disease. When the data began to surface that the French eat tons more saturated fat than do Americans yet suffer only a fraction of the heart attacks, the French Paradox was born. Nothing wrong with our hypothesis, it’s just those pesky French people who are somehow different. It’s a By God paradox, that’s what it is.

Same thing happened with the Spanish. Researchers looked at the food consumption data in Spain and discovered that Spaniards had been eating more meat, more cheese and more dairy while decreasing their consumption of sugar and other carbohydrate-rich foods over a 15-year period. And, lo and behold, during this same period, stroke and heart disease rates fell. Can’t be. Saturated fat causes all these things. But the data show… Thus came the Spanish Paradox. Statinators and lipophobes believe with all their little fat-free hearts that LDL-cholesterol is bad and is the driving factor behind heart disease. So whenever I come upon data that gives the lie to this notion, I’m going to start calling it the Statinator Paradox.

This JAMA paper is a classic case of the Statinator Paradox. Researchers using the NHANES data looked at the change in the prevalence of elevated LDL cholesterol and found that it fell substantially from 1999-2000 to 2005-2006. In a period of about six years the prevalence of high LDL cholesterol dropped by a third, which is a lot of drop in a fairly short period of time.

And since everyone knows that high LDL cholesterol causes heart disease, it should go without saying that during this same time period there occurred a significant decrease in the prevalence of heart disease. Right? Uh, well, no, not really. If anything, the prevalence of heart disease actually increased. But not to a statistically significant degree. So statistically there was no difference in the prevalence of heart disease during a time in which high LDL cholesterol levels were falling. But if high LDL cholestrol causes heart disease…? It’s the ol’ Statinator Paradox writ large...

In setting up the study, the researchers went through a lot of rigmarole to allocate subjects to three different categories depending upon their degree of risk for developing heart disease. In determining this risk, researchers used the Framingham risk equation, which relies to a great extent on cholesterol levels to allocate that risk. Which is strange since the Framingham Study has never shown elevated cholesterol to be a risk factor for heart disease.

Once subjects were divvied into these three groups, the researchers measured LDL-cholesterol levels and calculated what percentage of subjects in each group had high LDL-cholesterol levels. The threshold as to what was high varied as a function of the risk level of the group as a whole. The bar for what was high was lowest in the high risk group and highest in the low-risk group. In other words, if subjects had multiple risk factors, then an LDL-cholesterol level of anything over 100 mg/dl was considered ‘high,’ whereas in subjects in the lowest risk category, an LDL-cholesterol level over 160 was considered ‘high.’

Researchers calculated as a percentage the number of subjects who had high LDL-cholesterol in each risk group and did the calculations again six years later. The weighted age-standardized prevalence of high LDL-C levels among all participants and among participants in each ATP III risk category decreased significantly during the study periods. Which is what they were crowing about. Our therapy dramatically decreased the number of people at risk for heart disease.

But as for heart disease itself: No significant changes were observed in the prevalence of CHD or CHD equivalents from 1999-2000 to 2005-2006. So what did our researchers conclude from the fact that there were one third fewer people with high LDL-cholesterol yet there was no decrease in heart disease?

They concluded the obvious. There were still two thirds of people with LDL-cholesterol levels that were too high. And, no doubt, these people were not on statins. Don’t believe me? Here it is in their own words: "However, our study found that almost two-thirds of participants who were at high risk for developing CHD within 10 years and who were eligible for lipid-lowering drugs were not receiving medication."

So, let me see if I’ve got this straight. This study shows no evidence that lowering LDL-cholesterol levels decreases the prevalence of heart disease. And what we conclude from this data is that we simply need to treat more people. Brilliant!

As I was reading this paper online, I got a bing alerting me that I had an email from Medscape bringing me the latest in mainstream medical thought. I opened the email and began scrolling through the various articles displayed when my eye fell on one titled “Lipids for Dummies.” I clicked on it, and what opened was a video of a statinator of the deepest dye interviewing an alpha statinator about how to best deal with the risk of heart disease. It was unbelievable.

Here in a short interview is everything that is wrong with mainstream medicine today. We have two influential doctors at the pinnacle of their academic and clinical prowess – no doubt on the payrolls of multiple pharmaceutical companies – who are absolutely full of themselves blathering on about expensive treatments that have no true scientific grounding. And their BS is being disseminated to practicing doctors everywhere. Instead of ‘Lipids for Dummies’ this interview should have been called Dummies for Statins. Watch and just shake your head.

These guys aren’t really talking about reducing the risk for heart disease or early death; they’re discussing how to use extremely expensive medications that are not particularly benign to treat lab values. As I’ve written countless times, statins can quickly and effectively treat lab values, but there is little evidence they treat much else. So if you want to have lab values that are the envy of all your friends, statins are the way to go. But if you want to really reduce your risk for all-cause mortality, you might want to think twice before you sign up for a drug that will cost you (or your insurance company) $150-$250 per month, make your muscles ache, diminish your memory and cognition, and potentially croak your liver.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Fad diets INCREASE weight

Celebrity 'fad' diets are fuelling the obesity epidemic, doctors warn. They claim such plans are actually keeping people fat, with just one in ten Britons predicted to be a healthy weight by 2050. And they say weight-watchers should curb the amount they eat, rather than follow diets which offer only a short-term solution.

Diets that recommend eating only grapefruit, for example, or fruit and seeds found in the Bible should be avoided, says Professor Chris Hawkey, president of the British Society of Gastroenterology. He also criticised the Tiger diet - which advocates uncooked food and is reportedly followed by Mel Gibson - and the apple diet, which claims to boost the body's acidity and fight disease.

A survey commissioned by the BSG shows most dieters will try anything to get thin - except follow a sensible eating and exercise plan that has been shown to work. One in 20 women said they would try the Atkins diet to lose weight - even though only 2 per cent think it is good for their health. At the same time, one in five of the 2,000 Britons questioned admitted they would use weight loss pills to help shed excess pounds.

Professor Hawkey, speaking today at the Gastro 2009 conference in London, will claim ruthless promotion of unhealthy foods and diets has fostered over-eating and the growth of pathological attitudes to eating. These include anorexia, bulimia, orthorexia - an obsession with eating 'good' foods - and malnutrition.

Professor Hawkey said: 'In food fadism the virtue of favoured foods is exaggerated and purported to cure specific diseases, while supposedly harmful foods are eliminated from the diet. 'Foods fads are often based on a well elaborated scientific or, more often, pseudo-scientific theory but such is the complexity of diet that the specific value of the nutritional content is seldom tested.' And he will tell the conference: 'The problem facing society is not the content of our diet but the quantity we are consuming.

'We need to do away with quirky diets and get people to realise what will keep them healthy. 'In the majority of cases, simply increasing physical activity levels and eating sensibly will help prevent long-term conditions.'

David Haslam, chairman of the National Obesity Forum, said: 'Diets don't work. You may lose weight in the short term, and there are a few exceptions when people manage to keep it off. 'But most people put the weight back on. The most effective way is making sustainable changes to reduce dietary intake and increase physical activity.'


Modern 'superdiets' based on myths, says expert

Another report of the speech mentioned above. This guy is a real truth teller. He even has some time for the hated Atkins diet

Superdiets such as drinking large amounts of grapefruit juice or eating only raw fruit and vegetables have been exposed as just food myths, a leading professor claims. Professor Chris Hawkey, president of the British Society of Gastroenterology (BSG), said some people developed a “quasi-religious” attitude towards what was the best thing to eat, based on little or no scientific evidence.

He highlighted more than a dozen famous diets including rawism, which argues that cooking food makes it less nutritious, the grapefruit diet, based on the idea that an enzyme in the juice breaks down fat, and the alkaline diet, which seeks to maintain the slightly alkaline nature of the blood by eating certain foods. “Food has been shrouded in myths and fairy tales since time immemorial," said Professor Hawkey at the Gastro 2009 conference, which is being held in London until Wednesday. “But what’s important is to recognise that, despite the popularity of fad diets, we are losing a grip on the fight with obesity.”

He said the grapefruit diet, which Kylie Minogue has reportedly used, was unlikely to have an effect because the enzyme would probably be broken down in the gut before being able to get at body fat.

Professor Hawkey also flagged up the lack of evidence for the ‘chewing movement’, which dates back to the 19th century and counsels chewing 32 times to aid digestion. “[Former Prime Minister] Gladstone was apparently very eccentrically in favour of this diet. The idea is that salivary enzymes start digestion,” he said, adding that it was based more on “theory than evidence”.

However he had mixed feelings about the controversial Atkins diet, which says people should avoid carbohydrate and eat protein. “It is not terribly healthy in the sense that you are going to have a lot of fat, but if you lose weight then it is a good thing,” Professor Hawkey said. “The theory is that it resets the metabolic rate and there is some science to back that up.”


An apparent surgical cure for MS‏

Elena Ravalli was a seemingly healthy 37-year-old when she began to experience strange attacks of vertigo, numbness, temporary vision loss and crushing fatigue. They were classic signs of multiple sclerosis, a potentially debilitating neurological disease.

It was 1995 and her husband, Paolo Zamboni, a professor of medicine at the University of Ferrara in Italy, set out to help. He was determined to solve the mystery of MS – an illness that strikes people in the prime of their lives but whose causes are unknown and whose effective treatments are few.

What he learned in his medical detective work, scouring dusty old books and using ultra-modern imaging techniques, could well turn what we know about MS on its head: Dr. Zamboni's research suggests that MS is not, as widely believed, an autoimmune condition, but a vascular disease.

More radical still, the experimental surgery he performed on his wife offers hope that MS, which afflicts 2.5 million people worldwide, can be cured and even largely prevented. “I am confident that this could be a revolution for the research and diagnosis of multiple sclerosis,” Dr. Zamboni said in an interview.

Not everyone is so bullish: Skeptics warn the evidence is too scant and speculative to start rewriting medical textbooks. Even those intrigued by the theory caution that MS sufferers should not rush off to get the surgery – nicknamed the “liberation procedure” – until more research is done. U.S. and Canadian researchers are trying to test Dr. Zamboni's premise.

For the Italian professor, however, the quest was both personal and professional and the results were stunning. Fighting for his wife's health, Dr. Zamboni looked for answers in the medical literature. He found repeated references, dating back a century, to excess iron as a possible cause of MS. The heavy metal can cause inflammation and cell death, hallmarks of the disease. The vascular surgeon was intrigued – coincidentally, he had been researching how iron buildup damages blood vessels in the legs, and wondered if there could be a similar problem in the blood vessels of the brain.

Using ultrasound to examine the vessels leading in and out of the brain, Dr. Zamboni made a startling find: In more than 90 per cent of people with multiple sclerosis, including his spouse, the veins draining blood from the brain were malformed or blocked. In people without MS, they were not.

He hypothesized that iron was damaging the blood vessels and allowing the heavy metal, along with other unwelcome cells, to cross the crucial brain-blood barrier. (The barrier keeps blood and cerebrospinal fluid separate. In MS, immune cells cross the blood-brain barrier, where they destroy myelin, a crucial sheathing on nerves.)

More striking still was that, when Dr. Zamboni performed a simple operation to unclog veins and get blood flowing normally again, many of the symptoms of MS disappeared. The procedure is similar to angioplasty, in which a catheter is threaded into the groin and up into the arteries, where a balloon is inflated to clear the blockages. His wife, who had the surgery three years ago, has not had an attack since.

The researcher's theory is simple: that the underlying cause of MS is a condition he has dubbed “chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency.” If you tackle CCSVI by repairing the drainage problems from the brain, you can successfully treat, or better still prevent, the disease. “If this is proven correct, it will be a very, very big discovery because we'll completely change the way we think about MS, and how we'll treat it,” said Bianca Weinstock-Guttman, an associate professor of neurology at the State University of New York at Buffalo.

The initial studies done in Italy were small but the outcomes were dramatic. In a group of 65 patients with relapsing-remitting MS (the most common form) who underwent surgery, the number of active lesions in the brain fell sharply, to 12 per cent from 50 per cent; in the two years after surgery, 73 per cent of patients had no symptoms.

Augusto Zeppi, a 40-year-old resident of the northern Italian city of Ferrara, was one of those patients. Diagnosed with MS nine years ago, he suffered severe attacks every four months that lasted weeks at a time – leaving him unable to use his arms and legs and with debilitating fatigue. “Everything I was dreaming for my future adult life, it was game over,” he said. Scans showed that his two jugular veins were blocked, 60 and 80 per cent respectively. In 2007, he was one of the first to undergo the experimental surgery to unblock the veins. He had a second operation a year later, when one of his jugular veins was blocked anew. After the procedures, Mr. Zeppi said he was reborn. “I don't remember what it's like to have MS,” he said. “It gave me a second life.”

Buffalo researchers are now recruiting 1,700 adults and children from the United States and Canada. They plan to test MS sufferers and non-sufferers alike and, using ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging, do detailed analyses of blood flow in and out of the brain and examine iron deposits.

Another researcher, Mark Haacke, an adjunct professor at McMaster University in Hamilton, is urging patients to send him MRI scans of their heads and necks so he can probe the Zamboni theory further. Dr. Haacke is a world-renowned expert in imaging who has developed a method of measuring iron buildup in the brain. “Patients need to speak up and say they want something like this investigated … to see if there's credence to the theory,” he said.

MS societies in Canada and the United States, however, have reacted far more cautiously to Dr. Zamboni's conclusion. “Many questions remain about how and when this phenomenon might play a role in nervous system damage seen in MS, and at the present time there is insufficient evidence to suggest that this phenomenon is the cause of MS,” said the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada. The U.S. society goes further, discouraging patients from getting tested or seeking surgical treatment. Rather, it continues to promote drug treatments used to alleviate symptoms, which include corticosteroids, chemotherapy agents and pain medication.

Many people with multiple sclerosis, though, are impatient for results. Chatter about CCSVI is frequent in online MS support groups, and patients are scrambling to be part of the research, particularly when they hear the testimonials.

Kevin Lipp, a 49-year-old resident of Buffalo, was diagnosed with MS a decade ago and has suffered increasingly severe attacks, especially in the heat. (Heat sensitivity is a common symptom of MS.) His symptoms were so bad that he was unable to work and closed his ice-cream shop. Mr. Lipp was tested and doctors discovered blockages in both his jugular and azygos veins. In January of this year, he travelled to Italy for surgery, which cleared five blockages, and he began to feel better almost immediately. “I felt good. I felt totally normal. I felt like I did years ago,” he said. He has not had an attack since.

As part of the research project, Mr. Lipp's siblings have also been tested. His two sisters, both of whom have MS, have significant blockages and iron deposits, while his brother, who does not have MS, has neither iron buildup nor blocked arteries.

While it has long been known that there is a genetic component to multiple sclerosis, the new theory is that it is CCSVI that is hereditary – that people are born with malformed valves and strictures in the large veins of the neck and brain. These problems lead to poor blood drainage and even reversal of blood flow direction that can cause inflammation, iron buildup and the brain lesions characteristic of multiple sclerosis.

It is well-established that the symptoms of MS are caused by a breakdown of myelin, a fatty substance that coats nerve cells and plays a crucial role in transmitting messages to the central nervous system. When those messages are blurred, nerves malfunction, causing all manner of woes, including blurred eyesight, loss of sensation in the limbs and even paralysis. However, it is unclear what triggers the breakdown of myelin. There are various theories, including exposure to a virus in childhood, vitamin D deficiency, hormones – and now, buildup of iron in the brain because of poor blood flow.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Water doesn't improve your skin, scientists say

Aside from having good genes, the one surefire way of having good skin late in life is to be born and bred in a foggy climate where you rarely see the sun -- as in England. English women look 20 years younger than they are to Australian eyes and women from sunny Australia look prematurely aged to the English

Drinking lots of water doesn't give you a clearer complexion, according to scientists who now claim fruit and vegetables are the key to good skin. The findings are contrary to the advice that has been followed by many women, including Hollywood actresses and catwalk models, for many years.

The British Nutrition Foundation has claimed that a balanced diet and sunscreen are much more effective at keeping skin looking plump and young. Its Food For Skin report highlights a lack of any robust studies backing up the popular advice that water makes the complexion glow.

Report author, Heather Yuregir, said: “Just drinking water for the sake of drinking water really has no effect on improving the appearance of skin. It is just a common misconception.”

Vitamins A, B, C and E contained in a range of fruit and vegetables are all crucial for keeping the skin cells healthy. Not eating enough of them can result in problems such as scurvy, dermatitis or dry, scaly skin.

However, the report highlights that drinking plenty of water is still essential to good health. Smoking and exposure to the sun are what ages skin the most. Mrs Yuregir said: “Fruit and veg can keep your skin functioning as it should and keep it looking healthy. “And sun cream is really recommended to prevent the signs of ageing because the majority of the signs of ageing that appear on the skin are caused by sun damage.”


Super rat gives hope for Alzheimer's?

Hobbie-J, named after a Chinese cartoon character, can remember objects for three times longer than other rats and is better at finding its way through mazes. The rat, when it was an embryo, was injected with genetic material to boost the NR2B gene which controls memory. The success brings hope for future dementia patients, as it is thought the gene enhancement could one day be used in a drug treatment for human brain disorders.

Dr Joe Z Tsien, who led the experiment at the Medical College of Georgia, said: “Hobbie-J can remember information for longer. It’s the equivalent of me giving you a telephone number and somehow you remembering it for an hour. “Our study provides a solid basis for the rationale that the NR2B gene is critical to enhancing memory. That gene could be used for memory-enhancing drugs.” Dr Tsien undertook a similar experiment on a mouse named Doogie 10 years ago, but the latest trial shows that memory enhancement can work on different types of mammals, potentially paving the way for human use.

Although it could take decades to develop a safe drug, dementia organisations in the UK welcomed the study. Andrew Scheuber from the Alzheimer’s Research Trust said: “This research involving rats may lead to new ways to reduce the risk of developing diseases like Alzheimer’s or to ameliorate dementia symptoms. "A treatment involving NR2B may have the potential to slow the deterioration that takes place in dementia patients, but it is too soon to tell.”

However, Dr John Hardy, professor of neuroscience at University College London, said the research would not help Alzheimer’s patients because they suffered from dying brain cells, not ineffective ones.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Study doubts benefits of cholesterol drug

Vytorin combines ezetimibe with a statin. I infer that the study referred to below is this one which showed that adding ezetimibe to a statin achieved little but adding niacin to the statin was beneficial. The study was of one symptom only, however, and covered a short timespan of only 14 months so it is "publish or perish" fodder rather than anything that needs to be taken seriously. Note also the following finding: "Paradoxically, greater reductions in the LDL cholesterol level in association with ezetimibe were significantly associated with an increase in the carotid intima–media thickness". In other words two of the "symptoms" of heart disease moved in opposite directions during treatment!

A widely prescribed and expensive cholesterol drug does not unclog arteries as effectively as a modified version of Vitamin B3, a cheap alternative used to treat heart disease for decades, according to a new study. The research, which appears Monday in the New England Journal of Medicine, is sending rumbles through the medical community because it is the third recent study to raise questions about the effectiveness of Zetia and its sister drug, Vytorin, highly profitable pharmaceuticals made by Merck & Co.

"This is the third strike," said Steven Nissen, chairman of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. "The studies are telling us that it doesn't appear to produce benefits."

Vytorin and Zetia are among the most popular of prescription drugs. Last year, physicians in the United States wrote more than 29 million prescriptions for both drugs combined, and worldwide sales totaled $4.56 billion, according to Merck.

Although the drugs have been shown to reduce cholesterol, there is no evidence that they prevent heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular problems.

Top Merck executives are vigorously defending their drugs and have dismissed the new research as limited. "I don't think a clinician or a doctor or a patient should use this as the basis for any decision-making whatsoever," said Richard Pasternak, vice president of Merck research laboratories. He and other critics said the study appearing Monday involved just 200 patients, was ended early and examined what is known as a surrogate marker - the amount of plaque on artery walls - rather than the rate of heart attacks and stroke.

Because plaque can clog arteries and restrict blood flow to the heart and brain, cardiologists view plaque as a good indication for the risk of heart attack and stroke.


Prosecutor: Pfizer broke the law

This is just a "gotcha" from the Obama FDA. What is wrong with a drug already accepted as safe and effective being tried for related conditions? Who'd be a drug company exec with all the Leftist hate poured out at them?

"Prosecutor Michael Loucks remembers clearly when lawyers for Pfizer Inc., the world’s largest drug company, looked across the table and promised it wouldn’t break the law again," David Evans writes for Bloomberg.
It was January 2004, and the attorneys were negotiating in a conference room on the ninth floor of the federal courthouse in Boston, where Loucks was head of the health-care fraud unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office. One of Pfizer’s units had been pushing doctors to prescribe an epilepsy drug called Neurontin for uses the Food and Drug Administration had never approved.

In the agreement the lawyers eventually hammered out, the Pfizer unit, Warner-Lambert, pleaded guilty to two felony counts of marketing a drug for unapproved uses.

New York-based Pfizer agreed to pay $430 million in criminal fines and civil penalties, and the company’s lawyers assured Loucks and three other prosecutors that Pfizer and its units would stop promoting drugs for unauthorized purposes.

What Loucks, who’s now acting U.S. attorney in Boston, didn’t know until years later was that Pfizer managers were breaking that pledge not to practice so-called off-label marketing even before the ink was dry on their plea.

Loucks tells Bloomberg news, "At the very same time Pfizer was in our office negotiating and resolving the allegations of criminal conduct in 2004, Pfizer was itself in its other operations violating those very same laws." "They’ve repeatedly marketed drugs for things they knew they couldn’t demonstrate efficacy for," Loucks added. "That’s clearly criminal.”

Pfizer agreed in September to pay out a record 2.3 billion dollars to settle a high-profile fraud case, pleading guilty to a criminal charge for marketing its painkiller Bextra illegally. The settlement by the world's biggest drugmaker was trumpeted as a major victory by President Barack Obama's administration in its efforts to cut down fraud as part of a major overhaul of America's health care system.

Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius held a press conference to announce the settlement, which will end criminal and civil proceedings against Pfizer over the allegations it illegally marketed drugs for off-label purposes. "This historic settlement will return nearly one billion dollars to Medicare, Medicaid, and other government insurance programs, securing their future for the Americans who depend on these programs," she said in a statement.

The agreement with Pfizer is divided into several parts, the largest of which is a 1.195 billion dollar fine -- the largest criminal fine ever imposed in the United States for any matter, according to the Justice Department.

The company will also forfeit 105 million dollars and pay an additional one billion dollars "to resolve allegations under the civil False Claims Act that the company illegally promoted four drugs."

The case arose from allegations that Pfizer illegally marketed Bextra, the anti-psychotic drug Geodon, the antibiotic Zyvox, and Lyrica, an anti-epileptic drug, for uses that were not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The Justice Department had alleged that Pfizer's inappropriate marketing "caused false claims to be submitted to government health care programs for uses that were not medically accepted indications and therefore not covered by those programs."

The settlement also ends civil proceedings over "allegations that Pfizer paid kickbacks to healthcare providers to induce them to prescribe these, as well as other, drugs," the Justice Department said.

Assistant Attorney General Tom Perrelli said the investigation into Pfizer's activities illustrated that combating healthcare fraud "is one of this administration's top law enforcement priorities." "This case is a great example of the department's commitment to fiscal accountability, combating fraud, and returning much-needed dollars back to the US Treasury and state treasures," he said.

Amy Schulman, senior vice president and general counsel for Pfizer, said the drug company welcomed the settlement, which it had agreed to pay in principle back in January. "These agreements bring final closure to significant legal matters and help to enhance our focus on what we do best -- discovering, developing and delivering innovative medicines," Schulman said, adding that the company did "regret certain actions taken in the past."

The agreement was announced amid continuing efforts by the Obama administration to advance a healthcare reform package that faces stiff opposition. The administration has countered that a key provision of the reform package is an effort to reduce waste and fraud. "Illegal conduct and fraud by pharmaceutical companies puts the public health at risk, corrupts medical decisions by health care providers, and costs the government billions of dollars," said Tony West, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's civil division.

"This civil settlement and plea agreement by Pfizer represent yet another example of what penalties will be faced when a pharmaceutical company puts profits ahead of patient welfare."


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Study suggests that heavy drinking in men is ‘good for the heart’

Here we go again: I suspect that what was actually found is that Spaniards who don't drink alcohol are sick

Drinking alcohol may cut the risk of heart disease by almost a third in men according to a new study — although health campaigners have warned that the findings should be treated with caution. Spanish research on individuals aged between 29 and 69 found alcohol consumption could protect men from heart disease — regardless of the amount or type of alcohol they consumed. But the study found no significant effect in women. The study, which monitored more than 41,000 people, was published in the journal Heart.

Evidence that moderate consumption of alcohol can be beneficial to the heart, is well documented. But the study suggests that drinking much larger volumes also offers protection. Health experts however warned that heavy drinking can damage other organs, and cause premature death.

The Spanish researchers questioned participants in the study on their lifetime drinking habits, and how much they had consumed in the 12 months leading up to the study. Respondents were classed as those who had never consumed alcohol, former drinkers, low drinkers (drinking the equivalent of less than 5g of alcohol a day), moderate drinkers (between 5g and 30g a day), high drinkers (between 30g and 90g) and very high drinkers (more than 90g a day).

In Britain, one unit of alcohol contains 8g — equivalent to about half a pint of ordinary strength beer (3-4 per cent alcohol by volume), or a small pub measure (25ml) of spirits (40 per cent).

The number of coronary problems suffered over a ten-year period was then recorded and categorised according to alcohol consumption. The results showed moderate male drinkers could cut their risk by 51 per cent, high drinkers by 54 per cent and very high drinks by 50 per cent.

Robert Sutton, professor of surgery at the University of Liverpool, said the study had “several flaws” and should not be taken to suggest that high alcohol consumption can improve health. He said the finding that there was no relationship between alcohol and heart disease in women was “highly unusual” and suggested the need for more research.

Cathy Ross, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: “While moderate alcohol intake can lower the risk of having a heart attack, coronary heart disease is just one type of heart disease. “Cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle, is associated with high alcohol intake and can lead to a poor quality of life and premature death. “The heart is just one of many organs in the body, and while alcohol could offer limited protection to one organ, abuse of it can damage the heart and other organs such as the liver, pancreas and brain. “This study does not change the message that drinking moderately can be beneficial to the heart, but drinking in excess is harmful and a danger to your health generally.”

Martin McKee, professor of European public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: “The relationship between alcohol and heart disease remains controversial. “While there is good evidence that moderate consumption is protective in people who are at substantial risk of heart disease — which excludes most people under the age of 40 — we also know that most people underestimate how much they drink. “This paper adds to the existing literature, but should not be considered as definitive. Certainly, people should not be encouraged to drink more as a result of this research.”


An unusually sane comment on weight loss

Australian scientists Garry Egger and Sam Egger separate truth from fiction in the quest for weight loss. Garry Egger is Adjunct Professor of Health and Applied Sciences, Southern Cross University. Sam Egger is a statistician at the Cancer Council NSW.

There is a great deal of misunderstanding about weight loss, which extends well beyond the public to health professionals. On one level, that is hardly surprising because the evidence can be very unclear. The science of health behaviour - including nutrition, exercise, sleep and weight management - is generally less developed than research relating to other medical questions. Unvetted ''expert'' claims abound.

Commercial sponsors of weight-loss diets make loud proclamations for the superiority of their product but lifetime adherence to a restrictive diet - which is necessary to keep off weight once it is lost - is unrealistic for most people.

We assessed the best available evidence on weight loss and maintenance and used this to compile a 20-statement survey - with true or false responses - which we then gave to two groups of people: 173 GPs and 129 truck drivers and tradesmen.

We found doctors were almost as confused as truckies and tradies. The doctors disagreed with most of the supporting evidence on 40 per cent of our questions, the others on 49 per cent.

The statements below attracted the most incorrect answers, with our summary of evidence for and against them. It seems doctors could benefit from more education and training in this area, and much more research into these questions is required, to confirm or challenge the accuracy of so-called ''facts'' on which weight-loss advice is based.

Fruit juice is about as fattening as beer - TRUE

In terms of kilojoule content, equivalent servings of fruit juice and beer are similar. But as alcohol cannot be stored in the body, and is never directly converted to fat, any fattening effect of alcohol is dependent on other factors, particularly accompanying energy intake. So the often-quoted ''beer belly'' is really more of a ''beer plus food and drink'' belly. Fruit juice is as potentially fattening as beer in equivalent amounts.

Humans need eight glasses of water a day - FALSE

The physiologist Heinz Valtin tried to track the basis of this belief, which he claims may be responsible for the excessive intake of high-calorie fluids in the modern diet.

Valtin showed a person's fluid needs depended on age, gender, activity level and state of health - as well as the weather - and varied from 500 millilitres (about three glasses) to four litres (24 glasses) a day. Despite the popularity of the eight glasses ''rule'', international guidelines on fluid intake, now under development, suggest it is arbitrary and meaningless.

Dairy products can help weight loss - TRUE

The accuracy of this statement remains controversial. Because of the fat content of most natural dairy products, a common belief exists that all dairy products cause weight gain. But recent research - both across communities and in dietary experiments with individuals - suggests eating low-fat dairy is linked to weight loss.

There are indications that certain dairy ingredients, such as whey protein, and combinations of ingredients, such as protein and calcium, can increase feelings of fullness, and increase the calories lost in the faeces - both of which may assist weight loss.

Chocolate is healthy provided it is dark - FALSE

There has been more than a decade of research on the health benefits of dark chocolate since the antioxidant effects of cocoa were discovered. Cocoa is high in bitter-tasting flavinoids, which are the prime source of such antioxidants but which many chocolate manufacturers extract to improve taste.

However, there are no labelling requirements to inform the consumer of this. Sugar, which can lessen the benefits of cocoa, is also often added to improve palatability. Hence, while genuine dark chocolate has health benefits, chocolate that is simply labelled ''dark'' does not necessarily have these benefits.

Exercise is better than dieting for weight loss - FALSE

It is easier to reduce energy intake by a given amount than to increase energy expenditure by the same amount. Reducing intake by 1000 calories a day, for example, is the equivalent of walking an extra 15 kilometres daily. For this reason, dieting is more likely to be successful in the early stages of a weight-loss program. But exercise is important in weight loss and it may be more important than dieting in the maintenance stage, after effective weight loss. And both psychological and physiological factors must be considered, in which case neither exercise nor dieting is better than the other.

A low-protein diet is best for weight loss - FALSE

The success of a weight-loss diet depends mainly on the total calories. Specific nutrients generally make little difference but some have advantages. Protein can increase the sensation of fullness, particularly in comparison to sugary, starchy carbohydrate foods. In the context of the modern high-calorie diet, a reasonable intake of protein is likely to be better for weight loss than a low-protein diet.

The present protein intake of about 13 to 15 per cent of total energy is well below the estimated 25 to 30 per cent often proposed for weight loss and a healthy diet.

Fat people don't get more hungry than lean people - TRUE

It is difficult to evaluate a subjective feeling such as hunger among individuals, but research indicates hunger is not a distinguishing factor in obesity. Much overeating has a psychological and environmental, rather than physiological, basis and hence there is little reason to believe in a difference in genuine hunger - as distinct from psychologically conditioned ''appetite'' - between slim and overweight people.

Swimming is better than walking for weight loss - FALSE

In general, the best exercises for weight loss are those that are weight-bearing, such as walking or jogging. Up to 30 per cent less energy is used in activities such as swimming or cycling, which support weight and can be carried out at a more leisurely pace.

Because fat floats, an obese individual is likely to use relatively less energy while swimming, particularly if that person is an experienced swimmer. This does not negate the benefits of swimming as an exercise but reduces its relative effectiveness for fat loss compared with walking.

Weight lifting is good for fat loss - TRUE

In general, any form of exercise involving energy expenditure has benefit for weight loss. Resistance training is often underrated and considered only for the development of strength or size. However, where large muscles or muscle groups are used - or in resistance training using light weights at high repetitions - weight lifting can be effective for weight loss as well as muscle strengthening.

The best measure of body fat is body mass index -FALSE

Body mass index - a ratio of weight to height - does not correlate well with fatness in individuals. Body mass index is less accurate in people with a more muscular body type, some ethnic groups such as Pacific Islanders, and the elderly, whose height shrinks with age. This can lead to unrealistic goal weights. Waist circumference and some other body measures, or bioimpedance analysis, provide better estimates of body fat.

You lose more weight doing exercise you are good at - FALSE

Individuals become more efficient and expend less energy as they become experienced with a particular form of exercise. A fit, experienced runner, for example, requires less energy to cover a set distance than an unfit individual of the same weight, age and gender. Weight loss requires excess energy expenditure, which comes more from activities with which an individual is not so familiar.

An obese person can be fit and healthy - TRUE

While fitness and fatness are usually inversely linked, studies have shown that many active individuals can maintain good health irrespective of body weight. There is also accumulating evidence that a significant proportion of obese individuals do not suffer the damaging metabolic effects from their extra weight that might be expected, while a significant proportion of lean individuals do suffer such health problems. This has led to new questions about the effects of obesity as a marker, rather than a cause, of disease.


Friday, November 20, 2009

Study claims that walking slowly increases heart disease risk

Cheeesh! More colossal stupidity. They've discovered that people in poor health walk more slowly so say that slow walking causes poor health! Unbelievable

Slow walking may not only mean getting to your destination later but it could also be taking its toll on your health, according to a French study. Researchers from the Paris-based medical research institute Inserm found that older people who walk slowly are almost three times more likely to die of heart disease and related causes than older people who walk faster. "The main message for the general population is that maintaining fitness at older age may have important consequences and help preserve life and (muscle) function," researcher Alexis Elbaz, director of research at Inserm, said.

He said the study, which appeared in the journal BMJ, also suggests that a test of walking speed might be used to test the health of elderly patients. Previous studies had linked slow walking speed with increased risk of death over a given period, as well as with falls and other bad health outcomes, but hadn't shown whether it was heart disease or another cause that accounted for that higher risk.

The five-year study, part of Inserm's ongoing Three City Study, involved more than 3200 relatively fit men and women, aged 65 to 85, living in three French cities. At the start of the study in 1999, the scientists assessed the health of each participant and clocked the participants' speeds as they walked down a corridor as fast as possible.

Over the next five years, 209 of the participants died - 99 from cancer, 59 from heart disease and 53 from infectious diseases and other causes - for an overall death rate of almost seven per cent. The death rate among the slowest-walking one-third of participants - those men who walked at the equivalent of about 5.4km/h or slower and women who walked at about 4.8km/h or slower - was 44 per cent higher than that among the two-thirds of participants who had walked faster. Death from heart attack, stroke, and related causes was 2.9 times more common among the slowest one-third of participants than among the participants who had walked faster.

The increase in death from heart disease was seen in both men and women and was unrelated to the ages of participants or how physically active they were. The researchers found no connection between walking speed and other causes of death, including cancer.

Mr Elbaz said one possibility for the result was that the same risk factors that raises heart disease risk - high blood pressure and diabetes - also causes "silent strokes" that make it hard to walk fast. This idea "deserves additional studies to be confirmed," he said.


A food cop failure

New York began requiring calorie counts on restaurant chains' menu boards in July 2008. The first study to examine the regulation's impact, reported in the American Economic Review last May, found that average calorie intake (measured by receipts showing what a sample of customers had bought) remained basically the same at a Manhattan coffee shop and at a Manhattan location of a hamburger chain, while falling by 77 calories at a Brooklyn location of the same chain.

Another study of New York's menu mandate, reported in Health Affairs last month, was even less encouraging. The researchers found that the average calorie count for meals at four fast food restaurants in poor neighborhoods (McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's and KFC) rose by 2.5 percent after the rule took effect.

Comparing interview responses to diners' receipts, the researchers found that what people said did not correspond very well to what they ate. The share of diners who said they noticed calorie counts rose dramatically after the menu mandate kicked in, from less than 20 percent to 54 percent. But less than a quarter of those who reported seeing calorie information said it led them to consume fewer calories, and "even those who indicated that the calorie information influenced their food choices," the researchers noted, "did not actually purchase fewer calories."

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene prefers to cite its own, unpublished data, but even these numbers do not live up to the hype that preceded the menu mandate. Surveying 275 locations, the department found statistically significant drops in calorie consumption at just four out of 13 chains (McDonald's, KFC, Au Bon Pain and Starbucks).

It appears that all of these decreases were modest. The one highlighted by the health department was a 23-calorie drop at Starbucks, 9 percent of the pre-regulation average.

"We were not expecting to see miracles," a health department official told The New York Times. But it's hard to see how such weak results -- which may not even represent net reductions, since people could easily make up for fewer calories at Starbucks by eating more elsewhere -- can possibly stop 150,000 people from becoming obese and prevent 30,000 cases of diabetes over five years, as the health department predicted last year. Nor are they likely to translate into an average weight loss of 3 pounds a year, as the California Center for Public Health Advocacy claimed in pushing that state's menu mandate.

Press coverage of the health department's study emphasized a seemingly more impressive finding: Diners who said they saw calorie information and used it in deciding what to eat -- 15 percent of all customers -- consumed 106 fewer calories than the other diners. But that difference cannot be attributed to the menu mandate, since diners who use nutritional information are apt to be the ones who were most calorie-conscious to begin with.

Such customers had this information even before New York decreed that it appear on menu boards, since fast food chains were already providing calorie counts on their Websites and on posters, tray mats and flyers in their restaurants. The impact of making the numbers more conspicuous was therefore limited to the customers who were least inclined to use them, and the same will be true if a similar menu mandate is imposed nationwide.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Old ladies with inflamed arteries can be helped a little by statins

Provided they can stand the side-effects. My summary heading above is accurate. Compare that with the newspaper headline: "Statins reduce risks of heart attack in women by nearly half, research suggests". Things to note: 1). A relative 46% reduction is tiny in absolute terms. 2). The article has not passed peer-review and been published so no info is publicly available on dropout rates. Almost certainly, the dropout rate among the non-placebo group was high because of the severe side-effects. So only women who were robust to start with would have completed the trial in that group. If so, the results are meaningless. The determination to show benefit from statins really is pathetic

Women who take a statin can reduce their risk of having a heart attack or stroke by nearly 50 per cent, even if they do not have unhealthy cholesterol levels, research suggests. A daily dose of Crestor (rosuvastatin) reduced the chances of subsequent cardiovascular events by 46 per cent compared with those who took a placebo.

The trial involved almost 18,000 people — one in seven of them from Britain. Initial findings that showed an overall benefit for men and women who took the drug were published last year. The latest analysis, focusing on the effects for women, were presented to the meeting of the American Heart Association in Orlando, Florida.

More than six million people are prescribed statins to lower their cholesterol levels, but at present the drugs are given only to those at significant risk of a heart attack or stroke.

All the women involved in the trial were over 60 years of age and did not have high cholesterol. They each had high levels of a protein called hsCRP — high sensitivity C-reactive protein — which is linked to inflammation in the arteries.

Sarah Jarvis, a GP in London and the Royal College of General Practitioners’ spokeswoman for women’s health, said: “Cardiovascular disease can be mistaken as an ‘old man’s’ disease, while unfortunately the evidence suggests that people are suffering cardiovascular events younger and more women are at risk of developing the disease. “There has long been support for the wider use of statins in women but we didn’t have the outcomes data to support these recommendations. This data is extremely exciting.”


British government advisers rethink calorie counting

Once again what was wisdom yesterday is wrong today

Slimmers, rejoice — those forbidden sweet treats or extra bags of crisps may no longer be off-limits. Scientists advising the Government say that the calorie counts used as the basis of diet plans and healthy-eating advice for the past 18 years may be wrong.

According to a draft report by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN), the recommended daily intake of calories — currently 2,000 for women and 2,500 for men — could be increased by up to 16 per cent, suggesting that some adults could safely consume an extra 400 calories a day (equivalent to an average-sized cheeseburger, or two bags of ready-salted crisps).

The committee, made up of some of Britain’s leading nutritional experts, says that its report provides a much more accurate assessment of how energy can be burnt off through physical activity.

However, health campaigners and consumer experts warned that the Department of Health and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) could seek to “sweep this report under the carpet”, as it could send out mixed messages in the middle of a [non-existent] obesity epidemic.

Ministers are considering the introduction of new food-labelling schemes that would highlight the calorie content of foods relative to guideline daily amounts (GDAs). Industry sources expressed concern that revising figures and estimates on which the GDAs were based could cause confusion among consumers and mistrust of scientific advice. The FSA has been evaluating for two years new methods of labelling, including a “traffic light” scheme to colour-code unhealthy food. Existing guidelines on energy intake required for good health have formed the basis of food labelling and dietary advice from doctors and nutritionists since 1991. If the committee’s proposals are accepted some foods would be upgraded to a healthier rating.

The draft proposals, seen by The Times and The Grocer magazine, are due to go out for a 14-week consultation before final recommendations are made. The report comes two weeks after the Government’s chief drugs advisor was sacked by the Home Secretary for “crossing a line” by publicly criticising existing policy.

About 60 per cent of British adults are overweight or obese, with growth in the nation’s waistlines being blamed on sedentary lifestyles as well as excessive eating. The cost of overweight and obese individuals to the NHS is estimated to be £4.2 billion a year [Rubbish! People of middling weight are healthier than either skinnies or fatties] and the Department of Health has pledged to cut levels of childhood obesity partly through its £375 million “Change4Life” strategy.

Tam Fry, of the National Obesity Forum, said it was a “dangerous assumption” to say that adults could safely consume an extra 400 calories a day. “This is not a green light to eat yourself silly,” he said.

The last significant study on energy use, carried out by the Committee on the Medical Aspects of Food and Nutrition Policy in 1991, was based on observational studies, with students being shut in a room for a week having their breathing measured, a method prone to underestimating “normal” levels of physical activity. SACN assessed studies using the Double Labelled Water technique, which measures how much carbon dioxide the body has produced converted into equivalent values of energy.

Adam Leyland, editor of The Grocer, said: “The ramifications for the industry are significant, to say the least. All the UK’s labelling schemes, including GDAs and traffic lights, are based around the 1991 energy report.”


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

No Cranberries in Texas? No Lobster in Colorado? Blame the ‘Locavores.’

Researchers at MIT and Columbia University believe the answer to the so-called obesity “epidemic” lies in getting Americans to eat more regional food. So they’re outlining different “foodsheds” that we should all be relying on for our needs —especially if we live in a U.S. city. Will it work? Can we afford it? Let’s take a look. The PhysOrg news service spells out the proposal:
Each metropolitan area, the researchers say, should obtain most of its nutrition from its own “foodshed,” a term akin to “watershed” meaning the area that naturally supplies its kitchens … [T]hese local efforts should form a larger “Integrated Regional Foodshed” system, intended to lower the price and caloric content of food by lowering distances food must travel, from the farm to the dinner table.

Lower the price? We don’t know about shopping in New England, but the farmers’ markets selling “local” foods in our nation’s capital are where people go for $11-per-pound pork chops and $5 pints of raspberries, not discounts. As for lowering the caloric content, it’s hard to see how a local carrot might have fewer calories from a carrot that’s traveled 500 miles. Unless it’s a scrawny organic veggie, of course—which makes the price differential even more appalling.

We suspect that these researchers’ real motive is to attack what they see as a food system that’s too efficient and provides too many calories. But with over 1 billion hungry people in the world, efficient food production is hardly a bad thing.

So-called “locavore” advocates usually make environmental arguments for reducing our “food miles,” the distance food travels from farm to fork. This, too, is just another trendy foodie myth. In 2006, researchers at New Zealand’s Lincoln University compared the emissions and energy performance of their country’s domestic agriculture industry. They found that shipping lamb from New Zealand to England was four times less emissions-intensive than serving the Brits lamb produced right in the UK.

Why is this so? Because of economies of scale. It’s the same reason fresh flowers grown in Kenya and shipped to England have a smaller environmental impact than blooms grown by Dutch producers closer to home. The production process in Kenya is much more efficient, and emits fewer greenhouse gases per flower. This efficiency more than makes up for the jet (or truck) fuel burned to bring it to market. Food miles, the New Zealand researchers aptly note, is “a very simplistic concept.”

But back to today’s “foodshed” research: If switching to a regional-food-only diet has any chance of reducing our waistlines, it’s likely to be the result of food boredom. Maybe people in Boise will eventually get sick of eating recipes dominated by sugar beets and potatoes. And as for Alaskans and North Dakotans, a long canned-food winter is enough to make anyone eat less. Especially when they see everything Californians would be allowed to eat in a locavore utopia.

Of course, instead of slimming down by ditching our whole food production system, people could simply balance their calorie intake with physical activity. Or would that be too simplistic?


Female 'Viagra' boosts woman's sex drive after failing as antidepressant

A 'female Viagra' that works on the pleasure centre of a woman's brain to restore flagging libido could be on sale within two years. Women who take flibanserin once a day make love more often and enjoy it more, large-scale trials have shown. The pill proved so popular that its German manufacturers are poised to apply for permission to sell it across Europe, meaning it could be on British bedside tables by 2011.

With up to a quarter of women suffering from low libido, it is predicted to be at least as successful as Viagra, with worldwide sales topping £2billion a year. Like Viagra, which was originally designed to treat heart problems, flibanserin was formulated with another purpose in mind. It was created as an anti-depressant. However, those taking part in trials said it did nothing to boost their mood but did wonders for their sex drive.

Trials involving almost 2,000 women with low libido have now confirmed its worth as an aphrodisiac. After taking the drug, the women made love 60 per cent more often and also found it more satisfying. They also felt less stressed about their sex lives, the European Society for Sexual Medicine's annual conference heard yesterday.

The drug works directly on the brain's pleasure zones, correcting levels of the chemicals involved in generating feelings of desire. Researcher Dr Elaine Jolly said: 'By modulating these systems, flibanserin may help to restore a balance between inhibitory and excitatory factors, leading to a healthy sexual response.' However, it takes several weeks for the effect to build up, meaning it cannot simply be 'popped' on demand. It also has side-effects, with up to one in eight of the women in the trials dropping out with dizziness, fatigue and sleep problems.

It is not known yet how much it will cost, but is unlikely to be widely prescribed by a Health Service struggling to find cash to fund treatment of life-threatening illnesses. Some doctors are also sceptical about the need for pills to boost female sex drive.

But Paula Hall, of Relate, said: 'Female loss of libido is a big problem and it is not going away. It can cause problems within a relationship and affect self-esteem. 'This research is really quite exciting for women with loving partners whose loss of libido is a physical thing. But it is not going to fix a broken relationship or help with looking after the kids or cleaning the house.'


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Household chores found to be damaging to sperm count (?)

What they actually found was that people who had high exposures to strong magnentic fields had lower sperm counts. They did NOT trace the sources of those fields. It seems reasonable that they were factory workers who probably had poorer health anyway and hence the fields were not to blame

It's the get-out clause work-shy husbands have been praying for. A study has found doing household chores could reduce a man's chances of having children.

Researchers exposed male volunteers to electromagnetic fields – high doses of which are produced by all electrically charged objects, including refrigerators, vacuum cleaners and microwaves – and found such exposure could double the risk of having poor-quality sperm, the Daily Mail reports.

Fertility expert Dr De-Kun Li said his work provides the first evidence of a link between electrical goods and declining male fertility. Dr Li, of Stanford University, California, said he would advise men and couples trying for a baby to reduce their exposure to electromagnetic fields as much as possible. "I’m not saying you shouldn’t use a microwave but it makes sense to turn it on, then move away and go back when it is done," Dr Li said. "Keep devices, especially those with electric motors, away from the body."

The study recruited 148 donors at a sperm bank in Shanghai. Tests showed that 76 had poor sperm mobility, shape or count, while 72 had good-quality sperm. Those volunteers whose job involved working with high temperatures or being exposed to chemicals linked to sperm damage, such as solvents and pesticides, were excluded. Participants were asked to wear meters which took readings of magnetic fields every four seconds for 24 hours on days they considered ‘typical’.

They found that the half of the group who had peak readings above 0.16 microtesla – a measure of magnetic field strength – were twice as likely to have low sperm quality as those with readings below this level. Dr Li’s team also revealed the chances of having poor sperm quality increased as the time exposed to higher-strength magnetic fields rose. "This is the first study to show a link between measured electromagnetic fields and poor semen quality in humans, which may provide a logical explanation for why we have seen reductions in sperm quality in men over the past century."

Although the study, due to be published in January in the journal Reproductive Toxicology, did not look at what was producing the magnetic fields, electrical appliances – especially those containing motors such as hairdryers – produce high frequencies and therefore strong magnetic fields.

In previous studies, excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, a poor diet, drug use and obesity have all been shown to reduce sperm count. Dr Allan Pacey, of the British Fertility Society and a fertility researcher at Sheffield University, said he believed there might be something in it. "If these results are repeated in a bigger study, we need to start thinking seriously about promoting advice about avoiding exposure," Dr Pacey said.


FDA backs off oyster ban after strong criticism

A rare retreat for the food dictators

Facing fierce resistance, the Obama administration on Friday backed off a plan to ban sales of raw oysters from the Gulf of Mexico during warm-weather months. The Food and Drug Administration said it would put the proposal on hold while it studies ways to make the popular shellfish safer.

The abrupt turnaround came as oyster-lovers and industry officials _ as well as Democrats and Republicans across the Gulf _ blasted the plan as unnecessary government meddling. Industry officials said it could have killed a $500 million economy and thousands of jobs. "They might have been tone-deaf in the beginning, but they got the tune pretty quickly and listened to what we had to say," said Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., who said FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg notified her of the decision Friday afternoon. "I'm really thankful that they listened."

About 15 people die each year in the United States from raw oysters infected with Vibrio vulnificus, which typically is found in warm coastal waters between April and October. Most of the deaths occur in people with weak immune systems caused by health problems like liver or kidney disease, cancer, diabetes, or AIDS. While the total number of deaths is small compared with the annual estimates of 5,000 U.S. deaths from food-borne illnesses, FDA officials say it is a relatively high frequency that could be easily eliminated by processing oysters through treatments such as pasteurization.

Industry officials argue that anti-bacterial processing is too costly. They also say the treatments ruin the fresh taste and texture of raw oysters, which are considered a delicacy by many, particularly in the Gulf, which supplies about two-thirds of the U.S. oyster harvest.

Mike Voisin, an industry leader and oyster processor in Houma, La., said the FDA's proposal had became "a focal point for people to vent" during a time of pent-up anxiety. "Who can understand the bailout of Chrysler? Who could read a 1,000-plus page health care bill?" Voisin said. "This they could understand."

Kevin Begos, the director of the Franklin County Oyster & Seafood Task Force in Apalachicola, Fla., said FDA was snowed under by complaints. "We got 6,000 signatures on our petition in a week and on Facebook we had 7,000 members in one week," Begos said. "We got broad support: restaurants, food lovers and support from people who don't even like oysters who felt that consumers have a right to choose what food they want to eat."

In a statement, FDA said it heard "legitimate concerns" and decided that further studies are necessary to explore the feasibility and costs of new processing requirements. The White House declined to comment.

The oyster industry has been working with regulators for years to improve its safety performance by increasing refrigeration and trying to raise awareness of the hazards to people with weak immune systems. But the FDA says the results haven't changed much. The agency points to California as evidence that the ban is needed. In 2003, the state prohibited untreated Gulf oysters and has not seen any confirmed deaths since. By comparison, between 1991 and 2001, 40 people died in California from the infection.

The FDA proposal _ which was announced last month and had been slated to go into effect in 2011 _ would have prohibited sales of raw oysters from the Gulf for much of the year unless the shellfish were treated.