Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The chocolate wheelbarrow of Meneer Buijsse

I have finally tracked down the latest wisdom on chocolate from Brian Buijsse, who is something of a chocolate evangelist, it would seem. I reproduce the journal abstract below. The only praise I have for it is the last sentence in it.

The article is basically nonsense. They not only found an effect too tiny to support causal inferences but they found it only by comparing extreme quartiles, which is the statistics of desperation. In other words, they arrived at their conclusion by leaving out half of the data! I could say more (correlation is not causation etc.) but I think it is time Meneer Buijsse found another wheelbarrow to push. Buijsse thinks chocolate is good for your heart but the poverty of his results is more consistent with saying that it has no effect at all

Chocolate consumption in relation to blood pressure and risk of cardiovascular disease in German adults

By Brian Buijsse et al.

Aims: To investigate the association of chocolate consumption with measured blood pressure (BP) and the incidence of cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Methods and results: Dietary intake, including chocolate, and BP were assessed at baseline (1994–98) in 19 357 participants (aged 35–65 years) free of myocardial infarction (MI) and stroke and not using antihypertensive medication of the Potsdam arm of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition. Incident cases of MI (n = 166) and stroke (n = 136) were identified after a mean follow-up of ~8 years. Mean systolic BP was 1.0 mmHg [95% confidence interval (CI) −1.6 to −0.4 mmHg] and mean diastolic BP 0.9 mmHg (95% CI −1.3 to −0.5 mmHg) lower in the top quartile compared with the bottom quartile of chocolate consumption. The relative risk of the combined outcome of MI and stroke for top vs. bottom quartiles was 0.61 (95% CI 0.44–0.87; P linear trend = 0.014). Baseline BP explained 12% of this lower risk (95% CI 3–36%). The inverse association was stronger for stroke than for MI.

Conclusion: Chocolate consumption appears to lower CVD risk, in part through reducing BP. The inverse association may be stronger for stroke than for MI. Further research is needed, in particular randomized trials.

Media article here

WI: Assembly panel approves bill allowing sale of raw milk

Gov. Jim Doyle said Tuesday he may favor legalizing raw milk sales to the general public, under the right circumstances. "I think we all understand what the issues here are," Doyle said when asked about the raw milk bill at a news conference in Verona. "There are some people who prefer to drink raw milk, and I think under certain circumstances that's fine. But I think we also need to know that the mass-milk market is one that is healthy and in control."

The governor's comments came after legislation to allow the sale of raw milk to consumers moved a step forward, with lawmakers saying there were enough changes in the proposal to address safety concerns and still meet farmers' needs. Twenty-five states allow some form of unpasteurized milk sales.

Advocates say milk straight from the cow's udder is a bacteria-rich food that can help fend off illnesses and has kept farm families healthy for generations. Critics dismiss claims that raw milk is healthier than pasteurized milk, and they say the raw version is dangerous because of harmful bacteria it may carry.

By an 8-1 vote, the Assembly Committee on Rural Economic Development recommended approval of Assembly Bill 628 that would allow unpasteurized milk sales direct from farms licensed by the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

The legislation, including an identical version in the Senate, is expected to be voted on by the full Assembly and Senate before their session ends in April.

Would Doyle favor the proposal to legalize raw milk sales? "I have to see what comes to my desk," he said, adding that a bill could probably be crafted that would meet his approval.

Legislators have been swamped with impassioned pleas for and against raw milk sales. "I have heard from a lot of my public health people who are urging me to vote against this. On the other side, I believe in the people's right to do what they want to do, with some restrictions," said Rep. Ann Hraychuck (D-Balsam Lake), a committee member.

Under the latest version of the raw milk legislation, sales could only take place at farms where the milk was produced.

Farmers would have to post a sign declaring that raw milk does not provide the benefits of pasteurization - a process where milk is heated to a high temperature for a brief time to kill bacteria.

The sign would have to say that unpasteurized milk may contain dangerous pathogens. It also would have to say that raw milk is not recommended for certain people including the very young, very old, women who are pregnant or nursing, and individuals with diabetes or compromised immune systems.

Farmers would be prohibited from advertising the sale of raw milk except for an on-farm sign.

Their milk would have to meet all of the requirements of a Grade-A dairy farm license, including delivery of a portion of the raw product to a dairy plant where it would be tested for pathogens. And either the farmer or the consumer would have to provide a sanitary container for getting milk from the farm.

The ability to sell non-pasteurized buttermilk, butter and cream was removed from the legislation. Also, a farmer's license to sell raw milk could be suspended if pathogens were detected in two of four consecutive monthly samples....

More here

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Jamie Oliver's school dinners 'are more effective than literacy hour'

Placebo alone will give you a 30% improvement in almost anything. Interesting that it didn't help poor kids. The middle class kids probably took the propaganda more seriously

Eating Jamie Oliver’s school dinners improves children’s performance in tests, according to researchers who claim that the celebrity chef’s campaign to improve school food has had more impact than government literacy programmes.

The findings of the two-year study indicate that scores in national curriculum tests at 11 rose in English and science at schools where Oliver’s menus were introduced. Control schools, where junk food was still available, showed smaller or negligible improvements, researchers said.

The news comes as more than half of teachers in a union survey said that classroom behaviour worsened after pupils had eaten a high-sugar or fatty meal.

Forty-two per cent of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers said food served at their school was pre-cooked off-site and reheated in the school kitchen.

Researchers at Oxford and Essex universities said that Oliver’s televised campaign to transform the eating habits of pupils by banning unhealthy options from school canteens and introducing more fruit and vegetables had “improved educational achievement”.

The chef was blamed for a decline in take-up of school meals after he exposed the poor quality of food in 2005 and forced the Government to raise nutritional standards. But in a paper presented to the Royal Economical Society today, researchers said that his campaign was a “unique opportunity to assess the causal effects of diet and educational outcomes”.

The proportion of pupils reaching level 4, the standard expected at the end of primary school, in English increased by 4.5 percentage points. The number of those reaching level 5 — the top grade — in science rose by 6 per cent two years after the new menus were put in place.

“The effects we have identified are comparable in magnitude to those estimates... for the literacy hour,” the researchers said. The compulsory hour of literacy for all primary school children, brought in under Labour, had increased the proportion of pupils reaching level 4 in reading by 3.2 per cent, the researchers added.

The improvements noted by the Healthy School Meals and Educational Outcomes study, were small but significant, “given that these effects are within a relatively short horizon and given that the campaign was not directly targeted at improving educational outcomes”.

Researchers looked at test results from the 80 schools in the London borough of Greenwich which formed the pilot for Oliver’s school dinner project. They used neighbouring local authorities as a control group.

The academics failed to find evidence that the campaign specifically helped children on free school meals — a measure of social deprivation. “On the contrary the campaign seemed to have affected most the children from richer socio-economic backgrounds,” the study said.

“This is not necessarily counter-intuitive; it is not unreasonable that children from favourable socio-economic backgrounds adjust more easily to changes in school meals than children from poor socio-economic backgrounds.”


A chocolate bar a day 'can cut the risk of heart disease and stroke'

We hear this so often that I am beginning to believe it. There is not enough info below for me to trace the original journal article but Buijsse has been pushing this wheelbarrow for some years. The health effects reported seem slight from what little I can see

A chocolate bar a day can cut the risk of heart disease and stroke by as much as 39 per cent, according to scientists.

Cocoa beans contain flavanols, which are thought to increase nitric oxide in the blood and improve the function of blood vessels. For the same reason, the experts found, dark chocolate is more beneficial than milk or white chocolate due to higher levels of antioxidants and cocoa.

The eight-year study, of nearly 30,000 people aged 35 to 65, confirmed the results of previous, smaller studies into the health benefits of cocoa products.

Brian Buijsse, a nutritional epidemiologist at Wageningen University in The Netherlands who co-authored the subsequent report, found that even one square of chocolate can be beneficial. But if the dose is increased by just six grams, there were 85 fewer heart attacks and strokes per 10,000 people.

However, he conceded that those who ate more cocoa products could have shared other qualities that made them healthier. And he stressed that, with 100g of chocolate containing an average of 500 calories, people should still eat it in moderation since being overweight can generate high blood pressure and heart disease.

"Given the promising health effects of cocoa, it is tempting to indulge in more chocolate," he said. "But we should make sure we are eating as part of a healthy and balanced diet. "Small amounts of chocolate may help to prevent heart disease, but only if it replaces other energy-dense food - such as snacks - in order to keep body weight stable."


Monday, March 29, 2010

Junk food 'as addictive as heroin and smoking'

It would be much simpler but much less dramatic to say that opiates and nicotine stimulate the same pleasure centres in the brain as food. We EVOLVED to enjoy certain foods more than others. That came first. Opiates and nicotine came along later. Calling "junk" the food we enjoy most is just arrogance, not science

Bingeing on junk food is as addictive as smoking or taking drugs and could cause compulsive eating and obesity, a study has found. American researchers found burgers, chips and sausages programmed a human brain into craving even more sugar, salt and fat laden food.

Scientists at the Scripps Research Institute in Florida found laboratory rats became addicted on a bad diet just like people who became dependent on cocaine and heroin.

While the findings cannot be directly transferred to human obesity, it found that overconsumption of high-calorie food triggered addiction-like responses in the brain. But the study, published online in Nature Neuroscience, suggests for the first time that our brains may react in the same way to junk food as it does to drugs.

Dr Paul Kenny, a neuroscientist who led the research, said the study, which took nearly three years to complete, confirmed the "addictive" properties of junk food. "Obesity may be a form of compulsive eating,” he said.

“Other treatments in development for other forms of compulsion, for example drug addiction, may be very useful for the treatment of obesity. "The new study explains what happens in the brain of these animals when they have easy access to high-calorie, high-fat food.” He added: "It presents the most thorough and compelling evidence that drug addiction and obesity are based on the same underlying neurobiological mechanisms.”

In the study, the research team divided the animals into three groups. One got normal amounts of healthy food to eat, another was given restricted amounts of junk food and the third had unlimited amounts of cheesecake, fatty meat products, cheap sponge cakes and chocolate snacks.

There were no adverse effects on the first two groups. But the rats which ate as much junk food as they wanted quickly became very fat and started bingeing.

When researchers electronically stimulated the part of the brain that feels pleasure, they found the rats on unlimited junk food needed even more stimulation to register the same level of pleasure as the animals on healthier diets. "They always went for the worst types of food and as a result, they took in twice the calories as the control rats,” said Dr Kenny.

"When we removed the junk food and tried to put them on a nutritious diet – what we called the 'salad bar option' – they simply refused to eat. "The change in their diet preference was so great that they basically starved themselves for two weeks after they were cut off from junk food."

Dr Kenny said the research supported what obese patients have been saying for years that, like addiction to other substances, junk food bingeing is extremely difficult to stop.

In the rats, the development of obesity coincided with a progressively deteriorating chemical balance in the circuitry of the brain responsible for reward. As these pleasure centres become less and less responsive the animals quickly develop compulsive overeating habits, consuming larger quantities of high-calorie, high-fat foods until they become obese.

The very same changes occur in the brains of rats that over consume cocaine or heroin, and are thought to play an important role in the development of compulsive drug use.

The scientists fed the rats a diet modelled after the type that contributes to human obesity easy to obtain high-calorie, high-fat foods. Soon after the experiments began, the animals began to bloat.


Measure puts calorie counts on menus

It's been shown to have no effect but which Leftist ever cared about evidence?

That Caesar salad you're about to eat? It's 800 calories, and that's without the croutons. The fettuccine Alfredo? A whopping 1,220 calories. You may choose to ignore the numbers, but soon it's going to be tough to deny you saw them.

A requirement tucked into the nation's massive health care bill will make calorie counts impossible for thousands of restaurants to hide and difficult for consumers to ignore. More than 200,000 fast food and other chain restaurants will have to include calorie counts on menus, menu boards and even drive-throughs.

The new law, which applies to any restaurant with 20 or more locations, directs the Food and Drug Administration to create a new national standard for menu labeling, superseding a growing number of state and city laws. President Obama was expected to sign the health care legislation Tuesday.

The idea is to make sure that customers process the calorie information as they are ordering. Many restaurants currently post nutritional information in a hallway, on a hamburger wrapper or on their Web site. The new law will make calories immediately available for most items.

"The nutrition information is right on the menu or menu board next to the name of the menu item, rather than in a pamphlet or in tiny print on a poster, so that consumers can see it when they are making ordering decisions," says Sen. Tom Harkin, Iowa Democrat and chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, who wrote the provision.

It was added to the health bill with the support of the restaurant industry, which is facing different laws from cities and states. Sue Hensley of the National Restaurant Association says it will help restaurants better respond to their customers.

"That growing patchwork of regulations and legislation in different parts of the country has been a real challenge, and this will allow operators to better be able to provide their information," she said.

Some meals will be exempt from the calorie counts, including specials on the menu less than 60 days. The law will also apply to foods sold in vending machines, specifically those that do not have visible calorie listings on the front of the package.

New York City was the first in the country to put a calorie posting law in place. Since then, California, Seattle and other places have done so.

The FDA will have a year to write the new rules, which health advocates have been pushing for years. Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said it's one step in the fight against obesity.

"Coffee drinks can range from 20 calories to 800 calories, and burgers can range from 250 calories to well over 1,000 calories," she said.

Still, it's unclear what effect the labeling will have. In a study published last year by the online journal Health Affairs, only half of customers in poor New York City neighborhoods with high rates of obesity and diabetes noticed the calorie counts.

The accuracy of the counts could also be called into question, according to a different study.

In January, the Journal of the American Dietetic Association published a survey of 10 chain restaurants, including Wendy's and Ruby Tuesday, that said the number of calories in 29 meals or other menu items was an average of 18 percent higher than listed. The discrepancies were said to be due to variations in ingredients and portion sizes.


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Thirty per cent of breast cancer 'is caused by obesity' (?)

The sensation-seeking WCRF again. Their literature reviews are very selective and hence of no authority whatever

Up to a third of breast cancer cases could be avoided if women ate less and exercised more, researchers claim. Experts believe more than 14,000 women a year would probably not develop the disease if they had adopted healthier behaviour from an early age.

Modern lifestyles which feature regular drinking, lack of exercise and increased obesity are fuelling the rise of the disease, the European Breast Cancer Conference heard yesterday. Around 45,000 cases of breast cancer are diagnosed each year in Britain.

Carlo La Vecchia, of Milan University, told the conference in Barcelona: 'What can be achieved with screening has been achieved. It's time to move on to other things.'

Dr La Vecchia said the International Agency for Research on Cancer estimates that 25 to 30 per cent of cases could be avoided if women were thinner and did more exercise.

But Robert Baan, an IARC expert, said it was not clear if already overweight women could lower their cancer risk by slimming down or if long-term damage had already been done.

Around one in five British women is classified as obese. Research shows they are almost 50 per cent more likely to die from breast cancer than women carrying fewer pounds. [Absolute rubbish! Some studies show that fat women get LESS breast cancer and other studies show only very weak positive associations]

It is unclear why obese women are more at risk, although changes in sex hormone levels triggered by weight gain could be behind oestrogen-dependent tumours, which form the majority of cases.

The World Cancer Research Fund last year suggested up to 40 per cent of diagnosed women - around 18,000 a year - could avoid cancer by adopting a healthier lifestyle.

Studies show drinking one large glass of wine a day increases the chances of developing the disease by a fifth, say experts. Again, this could be linked to alcohol raising levels of oestrogen.

Dr Rachel Thompson said the WCRF had reviewed 954 separate studies. 'The evidence is now convincing that drinking alcohol, being physically inactive and having excess body fat all increase risk of breast cancer,' she said. 'There is also convincing evidence that breastfeeding reduces the mother's risk of breast cancer. Overall, we estimate about 40 per cent of breast cancer cases in the UK could be prevented through these lifestyle factors.'

Delegates also heard a warning from a British surgeon that increasing numbers of women who have a breast removed to treat cancer are panicking into having a second mastectomy.

Ajay Sahu, who works at Frenchay Hospital, Bristol, said many women diagnosed with the disease are extremely frightened and make the wrong decision in a hurry - despite little evidence it will improve their survival chances. He said a study of 27 patients who had asked for the removal of their unaffected breast revealed all had overestimated their risk of developing a second tumour by five to ten times. After 'cooling off' for a year, 23 chose not to have the second operation.

The conference will hear today how breast cancer survivors can safely try for a family without triggering a recurrence of the disease. A review of 14 trials, involving thousands of survivors, showed that not only was pregnancy safe, it might improve their chances of beating the disease in the long-term.

Those who got pregnant had a 42 per cent cut in their risk of dying from cancer compared to those who did not have a baby, researchers found.


Another fruity "miracle food"

Journal article here. This appears to be a study done in laboratory glassware so has a long way to go before it should be taken seriously

Eating blackcurrants may help asthma sufferers breathe more easily, according to a new report. A study by Plant & Food Research shows that natural chemicals found in the fruit may help breathing in some types of asthma.

Researchers also found that a compound in blackcurrants, epigallocatechin, may reduce lung inflammation in allergy-induced asthma.

The study, led by Dr Roger Hurst and published in the journal Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, found that the compound works together with the body's own natural defence mechanism to suppress long-term lung inflammation.

Blackcurrants also contain another inflammation-reducing group of compounds, known as anthocyanins. They are known for their antioxidant properties and have been shown by Dr Hurst's research group to also complement the body's own natural immune responses.


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Facebook linked to rise in syphilis by British "expert"

A British public health expert has blamed Facebook for a resurgence of the sexually-transmitted disease syphilis, but Australian STI researchers have called the claim "far fetched".

Data published by several British newspapers this week indicated that cases of syphilis had increased fourfold in Sunderland, Durham and Teesside - the areas of Britain where Facebook is most popular.

Professor Peter Kelly, director of public health in Teesside, told The Sun newspaper that "social networking sites are making it easier for people to meet up for casual sex". "I don't get the names of people affected, just figures, and I saw that several of the people had met sexual partners through these sites," he said.

But Shailendra Sawleshwarkar, a research fellow in the University of Sydney's STI research centre at Westmead Hospital, said the same could be said about any communications technology - even the telephone - and instead of blaming social networking sites we should harness them to spread preventative messages.

"It's allowing people to meet more frequently, now that doesn't actually directly mean that it's going to increase the rates of syphilis but it does mean that there's more chance for people to meet and have sex," he said in a phone interview.

"At the moment it seems really far-fetched to link them [Facebook and syphilis] together without looking at the actual behaviour of the people involved. You need to not use a condom to spread these infections, so it boils down to the basic message that's not getting across."

Dr Sawleshwarkar cited figures from the National Centre in HIV Epidemiology & Clinical Research showing the rate of diagnosis of infectious syphilis in Australia increased by 37 per cent in younger people (15-19) and 70 per cent in those aged 20-29 between 2004 and 2008. But he said the rate of infections reached a peak in 2007, and declined in 2008. Figures for last year are not due out until July.

Dr Sawleshwarkar said technologies such as social networking sites and text messaging were increasingly being used by health bodies in Australia to spread information about various sexually transmitted infections and how to prevent them. "I think use of a condom is more important, no matter what means of communication you use [to find sex]."

Facebook said in a statement that the reports of the syphilis link are "ridiculous" and "ignore the difference between correlation and causation".

"As Facebook's more than 400 million users know, our website is not a place to meet people for casual sex - it's a place for friends, family and coworkers to connect and share," the company said.


Beta-blockers find a new role – in battle against breast cancer

Sounds like good news -- if replicated in a proper study

One of the medical breakthroughs of the 20th century, the discovery of the beta-blocker, transformed the treatment of heart disease, angina, strokes, high blood pressure and anxiety. Now, days after the death of its Nobel prize-winning British creator , the wonder drug can claim another unexpected clinical success — as a potential treatment for breast cancer.

Research presented yesterday at the European Breast Cancer Conference in Barcelona showed that treatment with beta-blockers can help to reduce the spread of cancer in patients with breast tumours and improve their chances of survival.

The first study into the effects of beta-blockers on breast cancer suggests that patients taking the drugs got greater protection against cancer spreading to other parts of the body or returning at the original site.

Beta-blockers, taken by millions of Britons, block the action of stress hormones in the body. The creation of the drugs in the late 1950s by Sir James Black, a Scottish scientist, is considered one of the landmark discoveries of modern medicine.

The study, by scientists at Queen’s Medical Centre, Nottingham University Hospital, showed that beta-blockers also blocked the high levels of stress hormones found in breast cancer tumours, and which fuel cell proliferation and the movement of cancerous cells.

Des Powe, the study leader, said that though the trial was an initial study and involved a small number of patients, it was “sufficiently convincing for urgent clinical trials to be formed”.

The study looked at data on 466 patients over ten years. Three groups were examined: those being treated for hypertension by beta-blockers, those whose high blood pressure was treated by other medications, and those who did not suffer from hypertension and were therefore not taking any medication. Forty-three of the 466 patients were already taking beta-blockers and, in this group, there were significant falls in both cancer spread and local recurrence. They also had a 71 per cent lower risk of dying from breast cancer compared with the other groups.

Dr Powe said: “We are encouraged by these results, which have already shown that by using a well-established, safe and cost-effective drug, we can take another step on the road to targeted therapy in breast cancer.”

Drugs with unexpected uses: Some of the most high-profile drugs have found new life in unexpected roles, confirming Sir James Black’s maxim “that the most fruitful basis of the discovery of a new drug is to start with an old drug”.

They include:

— Sildenafil (Brand name Viagra). Started life as a potential medication for angina and high blood pressure, but was shown to be of little effect. A noticeable side effect in patients studied proved far more compelling, prompting the arrival of a blockbuster medication for improved erectile function called Viagra.

— Thalidomide (Thalidomid). Developed as a pain-killer and tranquiliser which was found to help morning sickness, resulting in thousands of pregnant women taking it and the discovery of horrific side-effects on the unborn child. Now subject of clinical trials for use in a range of cancers, including small cell lung cancer, and used for erythema nodosum, an inflammation of the fat cells under the skin.

— Duloxetine (Cymbalta, Yentreve). Devised and used as an antidepressant for severe depression and generalised anxiety, but which was also found to be an effective treatment for stress urinary incontinence and pain alleviation linked to diabetic nerve damage.


Friday, March 26, 2010

The calorie conqueror: Herbal pill 'can cut your appetite by a fifth ... and even cure a sweet tooth'

Here we go again: A quick and dirty study with no long term follow-up and no mention of side effects from the strong stimulants used. Some of the women taking it were probably too shaky to eat!

It could be the answer to your weight loss prayers - and there is no punishing exercise regime required. Women can cut their daily calorie intake by almost a fifth if they simply take a herbal diet pill, research reveals today.

The supplement has also been shown to help those with a sweet tooth - reducing the temptation to indulge in sugary snacks.

Zotrim, which is based on three South American plants and is freely available from supermarkets and chemists, was tested by scientists at the University of Liverpool.

They found that women who took the pill with their breakfast had a much lower appetite at lunch time - cutting their calorie intake by 17.6 per cent. Of 58 volunteers who were given either Zotrim or a dummy pill in the morning, those on the herbal supplement only picked at their afternoon meal.

The subjects, some of whom were overweight, were observed at a test lunch buffet where they were told to eat as much they wanted. Those on Zotrim ate on average 132 fewer calories - the equivalent of a Milky Way or can of cola.

If the effects were replicated throughout the day, the pill would cut a dieter's daily count by 400 or 500 calories, equivalent to two bars of chocolate or a kebab.

Zotrim is designed to make the user feel fuller for longer. But it also appears to take the edge off a sweet tooth, cutting the women's selection of biscuits and chocolate mousse from the buffet by 27 per cent.

The women taking the herbal pill finished eating around three minutes earlier than the others - indicating they did feel full sooner, the British Feeding and Drinking Group conference will hear today.

Researcher Dr Jason Halford, an obesity expert, said the findings suggest that Zotrim has a 'robust' effect on a dieter's appetite, which could help them lose weight.

The pill, which costs £22.99 for a month's supply, contains caffeine and other ingredients from herbs Guarana, Yerba Mate and Damiana.

The cocktail delays the rate at which the stomach empties by about 20 minutes. The process is not dangerous because it merely extends the length of time taken to digest the food.

However, it makes it difficult for dieters to overeat because they feel uncomfortably full sooner. It is hoped this will make them change their eating habits, stopping them from piling the pounds back on when they stop taking the supplement.

Previous research has shown that Zotrim can help overweight women lose an average of two inches from their waists in just four weeks. Some of those taking part shed five inches from their middles.

Another study credited the pills with helping women lose an average of 11lb in six weeks - those taking a dummy drug lost less than 1lb.

But not all studies of Zotrim have had such good results. A report by consumer watchdog Which? concluded that although there was evidence of significant weight loss in the short-term, the results of long-term follow-up studies have been 'disappointing'.

Zotrim inventor Dr Lasse Hessel said the pill 'helps people cheat on their own stomach'.


High hopes for drug to kill off TB

SYDNEY researchers have made a discovery which could lead to the first new drug in 50 years for the deadly disease tuberculosis. The team, led by Warwick Britton, head of the mycobacterial research program at the Centenary Institute, has identified a protein that is essential for the survival of the TB bugs, and is developing a drug to block it.

Tuberculosis is not common in Australia today, but it is "out of control" in some neighbours, including Papua New Guinea, East Timor and Indonesia, Professor Britton said.

According to the World Health Organisation one-third of the world's population is infected with the bacteria that cause the disease. Once a person is infected the disease can lie dormant - and untreatable - until it attacks.

Particularly worrying are drug-resistant strains, Professor Britton said. If he and his colleagues are successful they will develop a drug that kills the bacteria even while dormant in the lungs. It will also provide a rare non-antibiotic treatment.

Professor Britton estimated that a drug that can be widely used in humans would be available in five to 10 years.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Broader smile 'leads to longer life'

But it does NOT follow that smiling more will extend your life. Naturally happier people probably experience less stress

THE broader your smile and the deeper the creases around your eyes when you grin, the longer you are likely to live, according to a study published in this week.

Researchers led by Ernest Abel of Wayne State University in Michigan studied 230 photographs of US major league baseball players who started playing before 1950 and grouped them according to their smiles. The players were rated as "no smile" if they were just looking deadpan at the camera; as "partial smile" if only the muscles around the mouth were involved in their grin; or as "full smile" if the mouth and eyes were smiling and the cheeks were both raised, the study in Psychological Science said .

The players' pictures were taken from the 1952 Baseball Register, a listing of professionals that is packed with statistics such as year of birth, body mass index, marital status and career length, which reflects physical fitness. The wealth of statistics allowed the researchers to control for other factors that could affect lifespan.

Of the players who had died as of June 1 last year, those in the no-smile category lived for an average of 72.9 years, those with partial smiles - just the mouth involved - died at age 75, while the full-smile players lived to the ripe old age of 79.9 on average, the study showed.

"To the extent that smile intensity reflects an underlying emotional disposition, the results of this study are congruent with those of other studies demonstrating that emotions have a positive relationship with mental health, physical health and longevity," the study says.

It was unclear, the authors said, if the baseball players had smiled spontaneously or if their grins were produced under orders from a photographer.

But, in any case, far fewer individuals had full smiles - 23 - than partial or no smiles (64 and 63 respectively), which indicated to the researchers that even if smiles were produced on request, their intensity reflected the player's "general underlying disposition".

So the conclusion could be, if you want to live a long, happy life: hit the books, hit the ball and grin in a way that gives you crow's feet.


Chocolate in favour again

Once regarded as a health sin, chocolate is now being hailed as a superfood because of the high levels of health-boosting antioxidants it contains. Other ingredients include theobromine, which is good for the nervous system.

A recent study at Imperial College London showed chocolate can suppress persistent coughing. Another compound, phenylethylamine, is thought to have a mood-boosting effect. Meanwhile, antioxidants in chocolate are said to protect the skin against UV damage. They also boost cardio-vascular health (these health benefits all accrue from dark chocolate, as it is higher in cocoa solids).

In fact, so good is chocolate that it's no longer just a healthy indulgence - some doctors are now recommending it as a form of treatment. Dr K.K. Atsina, formerly of the University of Ghana Medical School, has used cocoa powder 'as an adjunct to treatment of hypertension and diabetes in my clinic for a very long time'.

Another Ghanaian doctor, Professor F. Kwaku Addai, writing in the journal Medical Hypotheses, describes how he recommends two to five cups a day to help protect against malaria. 'I used to get malaria at least once a year,' he says. 'But since 2004, when my family started drinking unsweetened natural cocoa mixed with hot water, we have not had it.' He says other doctors use it to help with everything from eyesight to asthma.

Closer to home, patients of Professor Dan Reinstein, a top laser eye surgeon at Harley Street's London Vision Clinic, are encouraged to eat 'as much as they can' 30 minutes before surgery. 'Patients who eat chocolate prior to laser surgery are less jittery, more alert and more co-operative than those who receive sedatives,' he says.

'For example, with a relaxed, attentive patient I can perform a routine procedure in less than three minutes. 'But the same procedure can occasionally take much longer if the patient is tense and worked-up.'

The natural high many experience after eating chocolate is not, it seems, just in our minds. Professor Donatella Lippi, a medical historian at the University of Florence in Italy, has researched the history of cocoa. She says: 'In the past few years, natural substances such as flavonoids - high concentrations of which are found in cocoa - have been considered as antidepressant treatments.'

Chocolate can also be used to balance low concentrations of brain chemicals, such as serotonin and dopamine. These important chemicals are both involved in mood regulation, food intake and compulsive behaviours.

Eating a moderate intake of dark chocolate is also suggested by psychiatrists because of its antidepressant-like effect.

In fact, this therapeutic use of chocolate is ages old. Professor Lippi says: 'In Europe, the relationship between chocolate and medicine dates back to Columbus's voyages to the New World. For example, in 1577, Francisco Hernandez (court physician to the king of Spain) affirmed that chocolate was used to treat liver disease.'

In a treatise published in 1662, Henry Stubbe, the personal physician to Charles II, reported that English soldiers who were in Jamaica lived on a diet of cocoa paste mixed with sugar which was then dissolved in water.

Stubbe noted that chocolate could also be used as an expectorant (which can ease respiratory difficulties), a diuretic or an aphrodisiac. It was also suitable for treating hypochondriacal melancholy. In other words, just eating some chocolate can make you happy.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Health warning over statin taken by millions

What a surprise! (NOT)

A statin taken by millions of Britons may increase risk of a condition which can lead to fatal kidney failure at high doses, a drug watchdog has warned.

Simvastatin is taken by around three million people in order to lower their cholesterol and reduce the risk of having a heart attack. However an analysis of clinical trial data in America has found that high doses can cause muscle damage and a rare condition which induces kidney problems and may be fatal. Patients were told not to stop taking simvastatin but advised to talk to their doctor if they have concerns.

The American medicines regulator, the Food and Drug Administration, has issued a warning to patients to be alert to signs of problems when taking the 80mg daily dose of simvastatin. It has also listed drugs that should not be prescribed to those on high doses of statins. Muscle aches and damage are a known side effect of all statins but the risks are generally considered to be outweighed by the benefit in reducing the risk of a heart attack.

The FDA found that patients on the 80mg dose were more likely to develop a severe form of muscle damage called myopathy, compared with those on the lower 20mg dose. Over six years, 52 of the 6,031 patients taking 80 mg doses developed myopathy compared with one person out of the 6,033 taking 20mg. And 11 patients taking the 80 mg dose developed rhabdomyolysis, the most serious form of myopathy which can lead to kidney failure and death, where as none of those on the 20mg dose developed the condition.

The majority of patients in Britain taking simvastatin are on the 20mg and 40mg dose.

The FDA said patients experiencing muscle pain, tenderness or weakness, urine that is dark or red-coloured, or unexplained tiredness, should contact their doctor.

The UK drugs regulator said the side effects are known about and included in patient information with the medication. A spokesman for the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency said: "The 80 mg per day dose is only recommended in patients with severe hypercholesterolaemia and at high risk for cardiovascular complications. "Myalgia (complaints of muscle aches) is a common side effect of statins, including simvastatin. It is recognised that very rarely statins can cause more serious muscle damage (myopathy) which in some cases may be life-threatening. "There are comprehensive warnings in the product information for prescribers and in the Patient Information Leaflet.

"These warnings advise that the risk of muscle injury is greater: at higher doses of simvastatin; when used in combination with certain other medicines including amiodarone (a medicine used for an irregular heart beat) and other medicines that are recognised to increase the risk of myopathy; and in certain patient groups including those who are more than 70 years old, those with kidney or thyroid problems, those who consume large amounts of alcohol, and those with a history of previous muscle problems during treatment with statins or other lipid lowering drugs.

"As with all marketed medicines the safety of simvastatin is kept under continuous review by the MHRA."

Ellen Mason, Senior Cardiac Nurse at the British Heart Foundation (BHF) said: “Simvastatin remains a widely used and well researched drug, which has been around for many years and serious muscle damage is rare. "It is considered a safe drug for many people in the UK to take. The benefits of statins in lowering cholesterol levels and reducing the risk of a heart attack are clear. “Only a small number of people with very high levels of cholesterol would need to take the maximum dose of simvastatin. Any concerned patients who are taking the highest prescribed dose and experience muscle weakness or pain should speak to their GP.”


Health drive in Britain will swallow up supersize bags of potato crisps

The popular 50g 'grab bags' of Walkers crisps will disappear as its parent company slashes the fat, salt and sugar in its brands. PepsiCo, whose brands also include Pepsi, 7Up, Doritos and Quaker Oats, is responding to pressure on food giants to fight obesity and ill-health. The company will introduce a cap of 160 calories on single-serve savoury snacks by 2015.

With more than 250 calories in a 50g 'grab bag' of Walkers crisps, the move spells the end of the size. The company says 50 per cent of its savoury snacks will be baked rather than fried by 2015, and 65 per cent of carbonated soft drink can and bottle sales will be 'no-sugar' by 2015.

A spokesman for consumer group Which? said: 'Consumers are longing to make healthier choices when it comes to the food that they eat and are crying out for companies to improve their offering. 'PepsiCo is savvy enough to know that innovating and providing an increasing range of healthier options is the way to keep their customers happy and their long-term future secure.' [Rubbish! They've been heavied]


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Seaweed bread could help fight obesity crisis (?)

Sounds like a re-run of Xenical -- which few people stay on for long because of the side effects

Seaweed bread could be the latest weapon in fighting Britain's growing obesity crisis, according to British scientists. A team from Newcastle University has found that seaweed added to bread, biscuits and yogurt can reduce the amount of fat absorbed by the body by up to 75 per cent. The secret is the natural fibre alginate, found in sea kelp and already used in small quantities in food as a thickener. Early taste tests have suggested the idea of adding in greater quantities could be successful.

The findings are being presented at the American Chemical Society meeting in San Francisco.

Dr Iain Brownlee said: "This suggests that if we can add the natural fibre to products commonly eaten daily - such as bread, biscuits and yogurts – up to three quarters of the fat contained in that meal could simply pass through the body. "We have already added the alginate to bread and initial taste tests have been extremely encouraging. Now the next step to to carry out clinical trials to find out how effective they are when eaten as part of a normal diet."

The seaweed may be more effective than current weight loss products sold over the counter, he said. Dr Brownlee added: "There are countless claims about miracle cures for weight loss but only a few cases offer any sound scientific evidence to back up these claims. "Alginates not only have great potential for weight management - adding them to food also has the added advantage of boosting overall fibre content." "These initial findings suggest alginates could offer a very real solution in the battle against obesity."


The latest "wonder" fruit

Good if you want slim mice

The secret to staying slim may lie in a tangy fruit. The juice of the blood orange stops mice piling on weight when fed a high-fat diet, research shows. In contrast, mice fed sweeter oranges more popular in the UK gain significant amounts of fat.

Scientists believe the fat-busting powers of the fruit, grown in Italy and the U.S., may be partly due to its high levels of anthocyanin. This red pigment that gives the orange its deep colour is a type of antioxidant, a natural chemical that helps ward off disease.

The juice damages the ability of cells called adipocytes to accumulate fat, University of Milan researchers told the International Journal of Obesity. Adipocytes are found mostly around the waistline and absorb fat from food to store as energy.


Monday, March 22, 2010

Marriage makes you fat

I won't argue with this one

Married people are twice as likely to become obese than their single counterparts, scientists claim. Greek researchers found that married couples were more likely to become fat due to their significantly changed lifestyle as they “let themselves go”. Married men are three times as likely to suffer obesity while married women are twice as likely to have weight problems, it found.

The research, based on the study of more than 17,000 couples aged between 20 and 70, found that married couples exercised less frequently, had less sex, had poor nutrition and were “comfortable” in their lives. Married couples spend more time eating together, sit in front of the TV more and often order takeaway ready meals while exercising less.

Scientists from Salonica and Ioannina Universities, who presented their research on Friday to the Panhellenic Medical Conference, in Athens, concluded that “abdominal obesity, or belly fat” was the worst problem among married people. Prof Dimitris Kiortsis, one of the study's co-authors, said that obesity was found to be directly related to a change in lifestyle. Prof Kiortsis, from Ioannina University who is also president of the Hellenic Medical Association for Obesity, said most married couples also have less sex, which is considered intense exercise that burns calories.

He said that unmarried individuals originally spend a lot of time keeping fit and making themselves attractive in order to find a partner "but once they get married they let themselves go”. "The need to hunt for a partner is reduced," he said. "Stress and anxiety is reduced in a good marriage, there is less smoking, and therefore one's appetite increases."

The study advised married couples to take up more exercise, to have only one home-cooked meal a day, to avoid snacks, and to follow a Mediterranean diet which includes a lot of fruit, vegetables and olive oil. Prof Dimitris Papazoglou, the other co-author from Salonica University, added: "If one of the partners decides to go on a diet, then the other partner also often follows." "Obesity is the biggest threat to public health in the entire world", he said.


The British boy whose blue-tinted glasses have allowed him to read properly for the first time

Tom Heaffey is a bright 18-year-old with a string of good GCSEs [High School exam results] who wants to be an architect. Yet just three years ago, he was virtually illiterate and predicted to fail his exams. Remarkably, his life has been transformed by a pair of blue-tinted glasses, which have enabled him to read properly for the first time.

Tom, who lives near Norwich and is a BTech art and design student, suffers from a neurological condition called Meares-Irlen syndrome, also known as visual stress. Without glasses, when he looks at a printed page, the text appears to jump about, blur and distort. Other symptoms include headaches and migraines.

Some degree of visual stress may affect up to 20 per cent of the population. When Tom was a child, his mother Sarah, 50, knew he was underperforming at school. 'He used to say the words were "fizzing". Eye tests showed his sight was normal, so his teachers concluded he was a slow learner.' 'Trying to read was exhausting and gave me headaches, so I couldn't concentrate for long,' recalls Tom.

It was not until three years ago, just months before his GCSEs, that he was diagnosed with Meares-Irlen. According to Arnold Wilkins, professor of visual perception at Essex University, the condition is a result of the neurons in the visual part of the brain firing too strongly. 'Different neurons in the brain react to different colours,' explains ProfWilkins. 'We discovered that using tinted lenses and overlays reduces the overactivity of these neurons.'

As a patient will respond differently to each hue, Prof Wilkins developed the Intuitive Colorimeter, a testing device that diagnoses the exact colour an individual needs. Patients are asked to read text on a machine that can generate 110,000 different hues. The correct shade will allow the patient to read clearly. This information is used to make the right tint of coloured lens. Tom's lenses are a dark, turquoise blue. When he first put on his glasses, he felt emotional. 'Suddenly, when I looked at a book, I could see how I should always have been able to see.'

By doing three hours of extra work after school every night, Tom passed ten GCSEs, with one A and three Bs. 'Mum cried when I got my results,' he says.

Precision tints not only help sufferers to read but also reduce eye strain and headaches. They have been shown to help dyslexics, migraine and photosensitive epilepsy sufferers and some children with autism.

There are now about 500 Colorimeters in community optometrist practices and a few NHS hospital vision clinics in the UK. The machine is also used in every college of optometry. However, lenses are not available on the NHS. 'I was horrified that parents have to pay around £200 for them,' says Sarah, who has joined the campaign to ensure that any child who suffers specific reading problems and otherwise considered a normal learner, receives a full vision test. 'The cost of NHS provision would be large,' says Prof Wilkins, 'but in the greater context of the expenditure on learning support, the glasses would pay for themselves.'


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Don’t buy hype on plastic baby bottles

Imagine your infant tossing a glass baby bottle. It shatters and you try to clean it up before your child crawls across the floor. Now imagine a plastic bottle falling — no worry. That is why babies have been tossing break-proof plastic bottles for decades — we value safety. Yet now, environmental activists are urging us to go back to glass, and they have convinced some lawmakers to consider banning the plastic.

Greens say a chemical — bisphenol A, or BPA — used to make plastic baby bottles and many other products is dangerous to humans because high doses are dangerous to rats. Yet humans metabolize and pass BPA quickly before it can have any health impact. Rodents do not. This is true for many substances, such as chocolate and peanuts, which are toxic to rodents but safe for humans.

Moreover, the best available science reveals that consumer exposure to BPA is most likely 100 to 1,000 times lower than EPA's estimated safe exposure levels, for both infants and adults. In fact, there isn't any research showing adverse effects on consumers after 60 years of BPA use. Not surprisingly, panels around the world — in Japan, the EU, Canada, Norway, France and more — have not been able to link BPA to any public health ills and have ruled that BPA is safe at current exposure levels.

Still, greens claim BPA is dangerous because it may be weakly "estrogenic," which they suggest impacts human development. Yet the simple fact that a substance might have weak estrogenic qualities is not cause for alarm or bans. If it were, we would need to ban soy, peas, beans and a host of healthy foods. These foods contain so-called "endocrine mimicking" substances similar to BPA but at much higher levels. According to data from the National Academy of Sciences, exposure to natural "endocrine mimicking" chemicals is 100,000 to 1 million times higher than exposure to similar substances found in BPA. It appears that BPA is less dangerous than a few tablespoons of soy milk. And that's pretty darn safe, even for a baby.

No one can blame parents for becoming alarmed about plastics, since all we hear is misinformation and hype. But we can blame our politicians when they fall for hype, fail to do any homework, and force the rest of us to use less safe or inferior products.


Dangerous boots?

Squeezing into killer heels, many women are happy to endure a little pain in the name of fashion. But medical experts have warned that the trend for cheap Ugg boots is a price too high to pay. They have said that knock-off versions of the designer boots are crippling a generation of young women, 'literally breaking' their feet. With just six months of wear women could saddle themselves with a lifetime of foot deformities, backache and pain in their feet.

And a phrase has even been coined for the gait of devoted wearers - the Ugg 'shuffle' - which describes the lopsided, pigeon-toed way in which cheap versions of the boots force women to walk.

Top brand Ugg Australia boots, which cost from £150, are worn by celebrities including Kate Moss and Cameron Diaz, sparking a craze for the flat, furry generic boots. But low-cost imitations often provide inadequate foot support.

With each step the wearer's feet slide around. This can cause the feet to splay which flattens the foot arch and leads to wear and tear on the joints in the feet, knees, hips and back. As a result leading podiatrist and chiropodists have seen a stark rise in the number of women suffering toe deformities, backache and pain in their feet. They have expressed their concern and warned against children wearing the unsupported boots as their feet are still forming, increasing the risk of long-term damage.

Dr Ian Drysdale, head of the British College of Osteopathic Medicine, said: 'Because these boots are warm and soft, young girls think they are giving their feet a break. In fact, they are literally breaking their feet. 'Their feet are slipping around inside. With each step, the force falls towards the inside of the foot and the feet splay. This flattens the arch and makes it drop. 'The result can be significant problems with the foot, the ankle, and ultimately, the hip.'

Consultant podiatric surgeon Mike O'Neill called the cheap Uggs 'disastrous'. 'As the foot slides around, you get wear and tear on the joints on the inside of the foot. The ankle is in the wrong position, the thigh bone also changes position and you get an abnormal movement in the pelvis, which leads to back problems.' However he agreed that cheap Uggs are fine to wear at home, but not for walking long distances.

While there is often little to visibly distinguish a well-made pair of boots from a badly made pair, even brand leader Ugg Australia admits its boots are 'comfort' not 'performance footwear' and that buyers should be aware of 'knock-offs' which lack reinforced heels or insoles of their boots.'


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Thou shalt not enjoy thyself: British local council bans ice cream vans from trading outside schools because they 'encourage unhealthy eating'

There's absolutely no proof that ice-cream does any harm, of course. Leftists are uninterested in evidence. They just KNOW

The jingle of the ice cream van tells schoolchildren summer is on the way. But the traditional treat has been banned by one council, which claims they encourage unhealthy eating. Bureaucrats at Hillingdon council have declared that vans which park outside schools will be impounded under new rules. They claim they were forced to act because there is 'a need to encourage healthier eating habits in children'.

But the new regulations have been blasted as petty by ice cream sellers, who insisted that head teachers welcome them with open arms. Peter Bhogal, 45, who has worked as an ice cream man for the past 26 years, said: 'Ice cream is a dessert, it's not unhealthy. 'An ice lolly is only unhealthy if you have three or four in one go. I go round to schools in the afternoon and the head teachers even invite me there. 'Rules and regulations make our work more challenging, and the recession has made it harder too, as people are more cautious with their money.'

The vans have also been banned from high streets on the grounds that they 'cause congestion', leaving sellers with only residential streets in Uxbridge, Ruislip and Hayes in West London.

Mr Bhogal added that in some areas of London vans were being confiscated for flouting the rules. He added: 'I have seen traders who have had their vans confiscated in Westminster for not observing the rules. It costs £30,000 to 40,000 for a van, it's not right. 'You have to observe the law. But if the sun shines, I'll be out there, its a British tradition and they can't ban that.

The new healthy eating regulations apply to secondary schools, primary schools, special schools, under-five centres and nurseries. Kathy Sparks, deputy head of environment and consumer protection at Hillingdon Council, said the new rules were necessary to encourage healthy eating. She said: 'Hillingdon Council is not banning ice cream vans but is tightening rules on where they can stop and trade in light of ongoing complaints and concerns from residents and health organisations. 'Ice cream vans now need a licence to trade within the borough and a number of conditions of this licence will be in place. 'These include not trading outside schools where there is a local and national need to encourage healthier eating habits in children. 'The restrictions will also include town centres in a bid to ease congestion problems and respond to noise complaints that have been received.'

Last April, nearby Harrow council banned all ice cream vans for fear they would cause a nuisance or make children fat, as part of a general crackdown on fast food vans. The council will act on rogue ice cream sellers after being tipped off by residents or council officers in the area. Ice cream vans who break the rules will be given a Fixed Penalty Notice of £100, and if it is not paid they face a conviction in the Magistrates' Court and fine of £1,000.

Father-of-four Mr Bhogal said he feared ice cream sellers would quit as a result of the rule changes. 'You will definitely see a reduction in the number of vans in this area this summer because people will close their businesses. "The people who make these decisions will be completely unaffected by this but I have a family to feed and I have a family business to maintain. 'I was speaking to a friend of mine yesterday who does two schools and he was seriously thinking about finishing because of this. 'We are all licensed. We all do things by the book and pay tax on time and this is how we are repaid.

'It is a tragedy because eventually you won't see ice cream vans and they are a British institution.' He added: 'No-one at a school has ever complained to me and I have customers who I served when they were kids. Now they bring their children to me for a treat and that is how ice cream should be treated - in moderation. They can buy a lot worse at fast food restaurants.'


Scientists find way to force cancer cells to die of old age

These are very encouraging early results

INSTEAD of killing off cancer cells with toxic drugs, scientists have discovered a molecular pathway that forces them to grow old and die. Cancer cells spread and grow because they can divide indefinitely. But a study in mice showed that blocking a cancer-causing gene called Skp2 forced cancer cells to go through an aging process known as senescence - the same process involved in ridding the body of cells damaged by sunlight.

If you block Skp2 in cancer cells, this process is triggered, Pier Paolo Pandolfi of Harvard Medical School in Boston and colleagues reported in the journal Nature. And Takeda Pharmaceutical Co's experimental cancer drug MLN4924 - already in early-stage clinical trials in people - appears to have the power to do just that, Dr Pandolfi said.

The finding may offer a new strategy for fighting cancer. "What we discovered is if you damage cells, the cells have a built-in mechanism to put themselves out of business," Dr Pandolfi said. "They are stopped irreversibly from growing."

For the study, the team used genetically altered mice that developed a form of prostate cancer. In some of these, they inactivated the Skp2 gene. When the mice reached six months of age, they found those with an inactive Skp2 gene did not develop tumours, while the other mice did. When they analysed the tissues from lymph nodes and the prostate, they found many cells had started to age, and they also found a slow rate of cell division. This was not the case in mice with normal Skp2 function.

They got a similar effect when they used the Skp2-blocking drug MLN4924 in lab cultures of human prostate cancer cells. To see if this would work in mice, they transplanted the cells and treated the mice with the drug. "We put human cancer cells into mice. We fed them with a drug and these cells do senesce (age)," Dr Pandolfi said. "The same mechanism of damage caused by the sun can be evoked pharmacologically in cancer cells."

He said this Skp2-related aging pathway appears to be active in cancer, and not other cells. "We have no intention of ageing the patient ... only the cancer," he said.


Friday, March 19, 2010

Mother's outrage as healthy five-year-old son weighing 58lb is branded obese by British health Fascists

With an active lifestyle and diet rich in fruit and vegetables, five-year-old Cian Attwood would appear to be the picture of health. So his parents were astounded to receive a letter from the NHS saying he is 'clinically obese'. It warned that he is in the fattest one per cent of his age group and risks heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

Cian is 4st 2lb when the recommended weight for his age is between 2st 13lb and 3st 11lb. But he is 3ft 10in, taller than average for a five-year-old, and is clearly not fat.

His mother Kriss Hodgson, 27, warned that labelling children as obese while they are still growing could make them anxious and lead to anorexia. 'There's not an ounce of fat on Cian,' she said at the family home in Overdale, Shropshire. 'When he takes his top off he has a concave tummy and you can see his ribs. 'The NHS is making everybody think they need to be celebrity size zero and it's going to give people eating disorders.'

Miss Hodgson and her partner John Attwood, 34, gave permission for their son to be weighed at his primary school last month. A letter from NHS Telford and Wrekin was delivered two weeks later with a chart showing that Cian is 'very overweight - doctors call this clinically obese'. Miss Hodgson added: 'Cian walks into town with his dad and that's a four-mile round trip. He also likes bike riding, fishing, running around the garden and football. 'His favourite foods are peas, sweetcorn, broccoli, chicken and grapes. When I said he'd been called obese our GP laughed in my face.'

Cian is one of thousands of children being weighed as part of the Government's National Child Measurement Programme. It is part of a wide-ranging campaign to combat child obesity, which also led to this week's announcement by chief medical officer Sir Liam Donaldson that secondary-school pupils would have to take an annual fitness test.

Mary George, from the eating disorder charity BEAT, said: 'Some of the messages these letters are sending out are not necessarily right for young people who are vulnerable-to pressure to have the right body image. 'If a friendly nurse could speak to parents directly, it might do more good. But such officialdom is a scare tactic that takes things to extremes.'

Clare Harland, spokesman for the NHS trust, said: 'Every year children in reception and year six are weighed and measured in school as part of the programme, which is now in its fifth year. 'The data is used locally and nationally to set goals to tackle obesity and deliver the right services to the right people. 'The height and weight measurement is carried out by trained staff and the families of any child can opt out.'


Food Fascists trying to ban iconic Australian foods

Since Australians have one of the longest life expectancies in the world, it would be more logical to ENCOURAGE Australian food favourites

JOHN Joannou knows a thing or two about Chiko Rolls [pic above] and the public's continuing demand for fried food. The Parramatta takeaway store owner dunks, fries and then drains battered products of all sorts - to go with the 150kg of chips he sells every week. But Chiko Rolls, battered savs, potato scallops and other fried morsels are firmly in the sights of a conglomeration of western Sydney councillors.

The Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils will ask takeaway shops and cafes to remove the fat and salt in foods in an attempt to make the community the healthiest in the nation. "We want to be the healthiest region in Australia by 2020," the organisation's president Alison McLaren said.

To do so, fast food shops are being asked to have "healthier options" on their menus like McDonald's, which now carries a range of items approved by the Heart Foundation. One plan is to ban the use of palm oil, which is high in saturated fats.

At Lakeside Seafood, Mr Joannou doesn't quite know what all the fuss is about - he switched to healthier cottonseed oil years ago. "People want to eat healthier foods so you have to find ways of giving that to them or as a business you'd die in the backside," he said. "We started doing this years ago off our own bat." Mr Joannou has grilled fish and salads on the menu, and gives the options of no butter on burgers and egg white instead of whole egg.

He said no matter what people would still find a way to have their "bad foods". "I don't think it's going to matter what they tell people - people are still going to want to eat these sorts of foods."


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Brits finally grow tired of the bumptious Susan Greenfield

The smart Jewish girl who got herself made a Baroness but still wanted more attention. As I also have said on various occasions, her colleagues say that she was more interested in self-promotion than in science. The last sentence below is a polite version of my view about the crap she speaks

During her 12 years at the helm of the Royal Institution, Susan Greenfield has come to be known as “anything but beige”. Undeniably a gifted communicator, she was seen by many as a breath of fresh air blowing through a stuffy establishment when appointed as director. Her supporters see her as an inspiration to aspiring young scientists, a campaigner against sexism in the lab and a smart businesswoman.

However, she has accumulated at least as many enemies as fans. Her detractors accuse her of being more interested in self-promotion than science promotion.

Lady Greenfield has maintained a research career as Professor of Pharmacology at the University of Oxford, where she focuses on brain physiology and has founded three biotechnology companies investigating diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

In 1994, Lady Greenfield became the first woman to give the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, and in 1998 she became its first female director. She has appeared frequently on television, written several popular science books and was a recipient of the Royal Society Faraday Medal for science communication. She is probably also the first female scientist to have appeared in photoshoots for Hello! and Vogue and is known for her flamboyant dress sense.

After criticising the Royal Society, Britain’s national academy of science, for not having enough female fellows, she was nominated for fellowship in 2004. But some who felt that her scientific credentials were unworthy leaked her candidacy, details of which are normally kept secret, and she was subsequently turned down.

Most recently, Lady Greenfield has courted controversy by warning that the internet — in particular social networking sites — may harm children’s mental development. Others argue that there is insufficient evidence to back the claims.


Soda Taxes Criticized as Ineffective and Unfair

Food activist godfather Kelly Brownell reiterated his call for soda taxes this weekend, claiming that decreasing the cost of healthy food and boosting the price of unhealthy food will encourage better eating habits. As usual, Brownell is ignoring compelling scientific evidence that says otherwise.

A new study from researchers at the University of Buffalo found that making healthy food more affordable had the unintended effect of freeing up more money for junk food. The researchers recruited mothers to shop for groceries in a simulated supermarket and reduced the price of items such as fruits and vegetables. Although the mothers bought more of the discounted produce, they used the extra money to purchase more packaged snacks. “When you put it all together, their shopping baskets didn’t have improved nutrition,” says Leo Epstein, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Buffalo.

Likewise, a 2008 study by Emory University economists examined the impact of changes in states’ taxation rates on obesity levels. They concluded that soft-drink taxes have only a minimal impact on weight because, even when untaxed, soft drinks represent only seven percent of the average soda drinker’s total caloric intake.

It’s noteworthy that Arkansas and West Virginia have soda taxes. And those two states have obesity rates among the nation’s highest. West Virginia ranks third while Arkansas is tied for 10th place.

Despite all this evidence, money-hungry politicians (and ideologues like Kelly Brownell) continue to press for soda taxes. Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter is calling for a 2-cents-per-ounce tax on all sugar-sweetened beverages, which would force the city’s residents to pay another $70 million in taxes.

The measure is drawing considerable criticism. Members of the Teamsters Local 830 held a protest against the Nutter soda tax during the weekend’s Patrick’s Day Parade. “We understand that the city is broke,” said Teamster Dan Grace. “But it can’t just be on the backs of my members.”

And a Philadelphia Inquirer editorial says a soda tax is unfair to the poor. “Unfortunately, the drink tax is unlikely to improve the health of residents,” the paper’s editorial board notes. “But it will hit those who can least afford it the hardest.”


Too much sex? No such thing — why sex addiction is total BS

American befuddlement over matters of sex is on the increase, in spite of the fact that one can hardly imagine the subject becoming more befuddling to the people of this country than it already is.

Sex addiction is the latest star in America’s sexual burlesque. Sex addiction has of course been a malaprop from its first usage. Addiction was originally and properly defined as a physiological dependence on a substance to which the body had grown accustomed, such as alcohol, nicotine, heroin and various other drugs. The cure was to end the dependency and abstain from further use of the substance in order to avoid a recurrence of the physiological dependency. These treatments do work and many people have been cured of their addictions and never returned to the addictive substance.

Applying such a metaphor to sexual pleasure creates a misleading and ominous innuendo. Sex is not an addictive substance. It’s a human interaction on which the survival of the species is dependent. It is also possibly the most pleasurable and sought after activity known to humankind, and arguably an experience no one should be deprived of. Most normal people consider more rather than less sexual pleasure to be a major objective in life.

Following the substance abuse mode implies that the only cure for an addiction to sexual pleasure would be a celibate or monastic life, a complete renunciation of the alleged addictive sexual pleasure.

The very idea of sexual pleasure as a harmful addiction plays precisely into the hands of one of the most perverse aspects of Western religious history, namely the teaching that sex is a work of the devil redeemed only by the act of procreation itself. Reliance on the notion of sex addiction in counseling and psychiatric treatment is ominous.

Christianity as a world religion has much to commend it on balance. Nevertheless, its posture toward sexual pleasure has been abysmal. In that respect it should be noted that Christianity, of all the major world religions, is the only one to cast sexual pleasure in such a negative light. Never mind that Christianity’s distaff side - Protestants and others - challenged such negativity toward sexual pleasure. They were eventually and unfortunately drowned out in the debate. It is no coincidence that currently the most Christian of nations, the U.S., is also the most negative toward sexual pleasure. (And at the same time the most confused sexually.) Europe as gone blessedly post-Christian.

We must suspect that the sex addiction proponents unconsciously wish to rebuild something like the medieval Christian social order where virtually every cultured and literate person was bereft of sexual pleasure for life, save for sexual pleasure in the service of procreation

Some psychiatrists are now getting into the fray, offering treatment for sex addiction. However, the Bible of psychiatry, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), is currently being prepared for its 5th edition, and is wisely declining to introduce sex addiction to its manual. It does, however, come close by introducing the category of hypersexuality as a mental disorder. This neologism is the editors’ own special, and arguably less troublesome, substitute for sex addiction. But as the saying goes, it walks like the proverbial sex addiction duck.

The pundits are now weighing in on the new DSM 5. Allan Frances in The Los Angeles Times is worried that philanderers and rapists will now be able to claim mental illness as a defense of their anti-social behavior and thereby escape punishment. George Will in The Washington Post astutely raises the problem of medicalizing the assessment of character, which he unaccountably blames on liberals. I thought I was a liberal, but I’m as concerned as Will about defining character or the lack thereof as a burden of psychiatric diagnosticians. And by extension, character as an expected outcome of proper medication.

So now according to the working version of the new DSM-5, psychiatrists will be able to assess whether one is having too much sex, or even whether one simply wants too much sex. Or too little. They will presumably have some kind of measuring rod to determine what is too much or too little.

This new project, of assessing who might be wanting or getting too much sexual pleasure, or too little, should create many more jobs for psychiatrists. We’ve been needing something to improve the job market. Maybe this will do it. Perhaps psychiatry will now join hands with the worst elements of Christianity and recreate the medieval Christian dream, a world where the only sexual pleasure allowable is that accidentally associated with the desire to procreate.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

CT scans now under attack

Based on the stupid old theory that harm and dosage are linearly related when they clearly are not. Low dose radiation can be GOOD for you and has long had therapeutic uses

DOCTORS believe Australians should not shy away from CT scans after concerns were raised about the imaging tests being overused. The health profession watchdog today warned that doctors were ordering potentially dangerous CT scans at higher rates than in comparable countries. "I have been alarmed at the number of these scans ordered without clinical justification,"

Professional Services Review (PSR) director Tony Webber states in the watchdog's latest report. "Practitioners should always consider the risks of radiation exposure particularly in younger patients." The PSR report cites one case where a doctor ordered a scan for a patient who had experienced back pain for less than 24 hours.

But the Australian Medical Association's president Andrew Pesce says the PSR review found just two doctors had improperly ordered CT scans. "Out of the 47,000 doctors who get (Medicare) benefits only two have been found by their peers to be practicing in a way which is so outside normal practice that they've been slapped with a penalty," he said.

The AMA president acknowledged the number of CT scans was increasing slightly faster than other diagnostic imaging. "That may point to the fact that sometimes it's being used without considering other cheaper alternatives that don't expose patients to the extra radiation," he said. "(But) sometimes the best information you're going to get is from a CT scan and it's better to get a good diagnosis." Dr Pesce warned patients against suddenly becoming afraid of imaging.

Media reports that 400 extra Australians were dying of cancer each year due to imaging radiation was just "a theoretical projection" based on possible exposure levels, he said. "Usually if it's done properly it's only because you've actually got a significant risk of having a real problem that needs diagnosis. "People have to be sensible."


Warning - your child is unfit: Parents of British pupils who fail school fitness tests to get letters from health police

Parents of children deemed unfit are to be sent warning letters from schools. Secondary pupils will be forced to take an annual fitness test. If they fail, their parents will be told they are at risk of heart disease, brittle bones and obesity. The scheme was outlined yesterday by the Government's chief medical officer, Sir Liam Donaldson.

He warned that lack of exercise is placing a greater burden on the economy than smoking - costing £8.3billion a year compared with £5.2billion. But the initiative was criticised by campaigners as yet another example of Labour's 'nanny state' interference in family life. Opposition parties said it also showed ministers' plans to improve school sport had completely failed.

The proposal is expected to be piloted at a small number of schools before being extended across the country. Under the scheme pupils will take so-called 'bleep' exercise tests which will see them perform a series of shuttle runs used to measure stamina and fitness.

Sir Liam also revealed ministers were planning to unveil recommendations on the amount of exercise children aged three and four should be doing, because 'many spend too much time on sedentary activities'. He acknowledged his plans would be 'shocking' to many parents, but insisted action was needed. His official annual report, entitled On The State Of Public Health, revealed only a third of adults meet the recommended amount of physical activity - 30 minutes at least five times a week.

It also found that overall child fitness is falling by up to 9 per cent every decade. Sir Liam said the situation was 'startlingly' bad, with only a third of schoolchildren doing the recommended 60 minutes of activity a day. Pupils are supposed to do at least two hours of PE a week, according to Government guidelines. But 10 per cent of children are not even getting this amount of school sport. Critics say Labour is to blame, particularly as since 1997 around 2,000 school playing fields have been sold off.

Parents in England are already sent letters about their children's weight as part of the National Child Measurement Programme. They are informed if their children are overweight for their height in their first and last years in primary school.

But the scheme has been heavily criticised for stigmatising children and labelling them as fat at a young age. In one recent example, five-year-old Lucy Davies, from Poole, was told she was at risk of health problems despite weighing just 3st 9lbs and standing 3ft 9 ins tall.

Parents said they feared their children would be bullied and made to feel inadequate by the new fitness tests. However, Sir Liam said: 'We might get a few shocks in some parts of the country but I think it's well worth doing....

In 2003, physical fitness testing became mandatory for 10 to 15 year olds in California. Each year, more than 1.3million students are assessed in six fitness areas. The children are each given a score representing their level of fitness. Over three years, an improvement of 8.2 per cent has been seen in the level of these scores. In 2007, a similar mandatory test was introduced in Texas for children aged eight to 17.

His report said if everyone did the recommended physical activity, heart disease would fall by 10 per cent, stroke by 20 per cent, type two diabetes by up to 50 per cent, breast cancer by 30 per cent, and osteoporosis-related hip fractures by 50 per cent.

But Margaret Morrissey, founder of the Parents Out Loud pressure group, described the warning letters as 'absolutely disgusting'. 'If the Government goes any further they will be completely intrusive in every aspect of the way parents bring up children,' she added. 'If they were to suggest that about my child, I would probably sue them for defamation of character for basically calling me a poor parent. 'Every child is different; they all have different genes. If you have the wrong genes, the chances are you won't conform to Government targets.'

Dylan Sharpe, from campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: 'While it is important that children are fit and healthy, these proposed annual tests are yet more Government interference and yet more tests for a generation of children who are already constantly under assessment.'

LibDem health spokesman Norman Lamb said: 'Sir Liam Donaldson is right to raise concerns about the state of our children's health but routine "bleep tests" won't by themselves solve the obesity crisis facing the country.'

The Department for Children, School and Families said: 'We think it's an interesting idea and we will consider it.'


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

MA: Support grows for limiting junk food in schools

There seems to be an epidemic of this nonsense but it will achieve nothing positive. Asking that its effectiveness be tested first is too much to ask, of course. Leftists just KNOW

A bill that would ban the sale of sugary drinks and junk food in school vending machines and school stores is gaining momentum in the Legislature, as Massachusetts combats a troubling rise in childhood obesity rates.

The Massachusetts legislation contains school nutrition guidelines from a 2007 report by the Institute of Medicine. Here are some recommended standards for what snacks and beverages should contain:

* No more than 35 percent of total calories from fat.

* Less than 10 percent of total calories from saturated fats.

* Zero trans fat.

* No more than 35 percent of calories from total sugars per portion as packaged. (Exceptions include fruits and 100-percent fruit juices without added sugars, vegetables and 100-percent vegetable juices without added sugars, and unflavored nonfat and low-fat milk and yogurt.)

* 200 calories or less per portion as packaged.

* A sodium content limit of 200 mg or less per portion as packaged.

* Foods and beverages are caffeine-free, with the exception of trace amounts of naturally occurring caffeine-related substances.

The House passed it in January, after nearly a decade of debate on similar bills that went nowhere. Now, Senate President Therese Murray has thrown her support behind the effort and is optimistic that members will embrace it in a scheduled Senate vote today.

“We haven’t heard anything negative from members,’’ Murray said in an interview. “Obviously, everyone is very alarmed about the high level of diabetes and obesity rates. It’s a crisis.’’

The bill is one of two the Senate will debate today that aim to foster a healthier learning environment for students. The other legislation sets out to prevent bullying at school and on the Internet.

Legislators say they are motivated by a string of reports in recent years that have revealed the magnitude of the childhood obesity problem. In Massachusetts, 1 in 3 school children was overweight or obese in 2008, up from 1 in 4 two years earlier, according to a report by the Massachusetts Health Council, a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy group.

“This is not the only piece of the puzzle to solve childhood obesity, but it’s a significant step forward,’’ said Representative Peter J. Koutoujian, a Waltham Democrat who has been trying to rid school vending machines of unhealthy foods for nearly a decade.

The legislation is the latest push by the state to combat childhood obesity, a top priority of Governor Deval Patrick. Public schools, complying with a new public health mandate, began measuring and weighing first-, fourth-, seventh-, and 10th-graders last fall so they can calculate their body mass index, a standard measurement used to analyze whether someone weighs too much or too little.

President Obama is urging Congress, as it overhauls the Childhood Nutrition Act, to set nutritional standards for food and beverage items sold outside lunch and breakfast programs.

Many Massachusetts school districts — such as Boston, Cohasset, and Lawrence — have taken the lead in replacing junk food in vending machines with more nutritional offerings, such as pretzels, rice cakes, and soy nuts. The movement prompted some education groups to question the need for a state law.

“I defy you to walk into a public school with a Coke machine that sells soda,’’ said Glenn Koocher, executive director of the Massachusetts School Committee Association, which contends that school districts do not need additional state regulations. “School districts have made the changes. They’ve done what’s best for kids.’’

But public health specialists, many school food service directors, and some legislators say the state needs to step in to ensure the consistency of nutritional standards from one school to another and to force those schools that have been lax to shape up...

More here

Baldies rule! Hair loss 'almost halves the risk of prostate cancer'

If one were to follow the usual logic of epidemiologists, this would lead to a recommendation that men should regularly pull their hair out

It's one thing men under 30 don't want to see in the mirror - the glint of an emerging bald patch. But research suggests those who, like Prince William, are facing a future with less hair should stop fretting at that retreating hairline. Men who start going bald at a young age are up to 45 per cent less likely to fall victim to prostate cancer later in life, scientists have found.

Although half of all men suffer significant hair loss by the age of 50, an American team has linked the high levels of testosterone in those who go bald earlier to a lower risk of tumours. The scientists studied 2,000 men aged between 40 and 47, half of whom had suffered prostate cancer. They compared the rate of tumours in those who remembered their hair thinning by the age of 30 with those who did not suffer hair loss. Men who had started to develop bald spots on the top of their heads as well as receding hairlines had the least risk of cancer.

Hair loss is a source of concern for many young men, with surveys showing nearly half think going bald makes them feel old and less attractive while three out of four have selfesteem problems.

The positive findings published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology will be controversial because previous smaller studies have suggested hair loss increases the risk of cancer. Most baldness is caused when hair follicles, the tiny sacs in the scalp from which hair grows, become exposed to too much dihydrotestosterone, or DHT.

This is a chemical produced by the male hormone testosterone. If there is too much DHT circulating in the blood, the follicles shrink, so the hair becomes thinner and grows for less time than normal. Experts believe men with high levels of testosterone are more likely to lose their hair, especially if baldness already runs in the family.

Those diagnosed with prostate cancer are often given drugs to reduce testosterone levels because the hormone can accelerate the growth of some tumours once they develop. But the latest research suggests being exposed to high levels of testosterone from a young age might actually help to protect against the disease. 'At first, the findings were surprising,' said Professor Jonathan Wright, an expert in prostate cancer at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. 'But we found that early onset baldness was associated with a 29 per cent to 45 per cent reduction in their relative risk of prostate cancer.'

Dr Helen Rippon, head of research management at The Prostate Cancer Charity, said: 'If these results are correct, they could be useful in providing us with a greater understanding of how testosterone behaves in the body and how it can affect different tissues.'