Thursday, September 30, 2010

Popular British TV chef: please don't celebrate excessive thinness

Nigella Lawson has championed an "anti-diet" philosophy and expressed concerned that increasing numbers of young people are suffering from eating disorders.

The television cook, renowned for her indulgent recipes, said she worried that dieting had become "normalised" for teenagers. Seeing her late mother, Vanessa, struggle with eating disorders throughout her life has made her determined to have a positive relationship with food, Lawson said.

"I think that's probably very much the basis of my anti-diet stance. "It's not that I think it's good to eat unheathily, I don't, but I can see how corrosive obsessive dieting can be.

And what I would say now as a parent - you know, I've got teenage children - is that I'm quite taken aback how much anorexia now seems to be pretty much equal in both sexes. I notice both male and female.

"In many senses it's slightly normalised because people routinely congratulate one another for eating less or for losing weight. 'Have you lost weight?' is meant to be a nice thing to say to someone. So, of course, you don't have to extrapolate very far and that gets to be a celebration of excessive thinness."

Appearing on Daybreak, the ITV1 morning programme, Lawson admitted that she did not set a perfect example for her own children. "I did vow when I had my daughter that I would never become someone who would say, 'I shouldn't eat this or I feel so fat today'. Of course, occasionally one does break that."

Her comments follow the death of Anna Wood, 16, who decided to join her mother on a post-Christmas diet in January last year. Within months, her weight dropped to six-and-a-half stone and she died of a heart attack earlier this year.

Lawson has previously referred to her mother, who died in 1985, as "perpetually dieting". She recalled: "As a consequence, my act of teen rebellion was not being skinny... in my experience, enjoying food is probably a good way of not getting into that binge mentality".


ADHD blamed on genes, not parenting

Nice to see the obvious acknowledged

ATTENTION deficit hyperactivity disorder is a genetic condition rather than a consequence of bad parenting or poor diet, new research suggests.

A landmark study found that children with ADHD are more likely to have differences in the brain caused by duplicated or missing segments of DNA. The research, published today in The Lancet, dispels theories linking the condition to parenting or high-sugar diets, The Australian reports.

Scientists from Cardiff University found that rare copy number variants - where small pieces of DNA are duplicated or deleted - were twice as common in children with ADHD as in those without.

The study identified an overlap between the affected parts of the DNA and those associated with autism and schizophrenia. The most significant was at a particular region on chromosome 16 that has previously been implicated in schizophrenia.

Children with ADHD are excessively restless, impulsive and easily distracted. There is no cure, although medication and behavioural therapy can reduce symptoms. Patterns of ADHD have shown it to be highly heritable. Sufferers are statistically more likely to have a parent with the condition.

Anita Thapar, of the department of psychological medicine and neurology at Cardiff, said the study showed that ADHD was better considered a neurodevelopmental disorder rather than a behavioural problem.

"We hope these findings will help overcome the stigma," Professor Thapar said. "Too often, people dismiss ADHD as being down to bad parenting or poor diet. Now we can say that ADHD is a genetic disease and that the brains of children with this condition develop differently."

Researchers analysed the genomes of 366 children with a diagnosis of ADHD against more than 1000 control samples to search for variations in their genetic make-up. They found 57 large, rare copy number variants in the ADHD sufferers compared with 78 among the 1047 controls.

While the study showed the primary role of genes, it did not exclude the influence of environmental factors and it included only people of European Caucasian descent.

John Williams, of the Wellcome Trust, a funder of the research, said: "These findings are testament to the perseverance of Professor Thapar and colleagues to prove the often unfashionable theory that ADHD is a brain disorder with genetic links."

The researchers said that while autism and ADHD were thought to be separate conditions, the study suggested that they may have a shared biological basis.

Philip Asherson, of the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London, agreed that environment should still be considered a cause. Research on Romanian orphans found that deprivation at an early age could lead to ADHD or other neurological problems, he said.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Cretan babies breastfed for six months 'significantly healthier' than infants fed on formula feeds (?)

I don't know enough about life on Crete (or how well Cretan mothers use formula) to comment on possible social influences but the results are odd (the babies had to be EXCLUSIVELY breastfed to get any benefits?) and the fact that only 91 out of nearly 1,000 babies were exclusively breastfed after 6 months suggests that the 91 mothers concerned may be deviant from the population norm in other ways -- perhaps exhibiting an unusually high level of care for the health of their infants. So the benefit observed cannot with certainty be ascribed to the breastfeeding itself.

I can also see no evidence of an attempt to exclude experimenter expectation effects

Breastfeeding children for six months can ward off common infections during infancy, further evidence suggests. The findings showed babies brought up exclusively on their mother's milk were significantly more healthy than those given substitute formula feeds.

But the study found the positive effects - fewer and less severe infections - were not felt by children who were only partially breastfed.

Researchers from the University of Crete monitored the health of just under 1,000 infants for a period of 12 months. They recorded any common infections they had at one, three, six, nine and 12 months, which included respiratory and urinary infections, ear infections, stomach upsets, conjunctivitis and thrush.

The infants, drawn from a total of 6,878 births in 2004 in Crete, were routinely vaccinated and had access to a high standard of healthcare.

Researchers found the longer an infant was exclusively breastfed - with no substitute formula feeds - the lower the rate of infection. Any infections they did pick up were less severe than those experienced by their peers who were either partially breastfed or not breastfed at all.

Factors such as parental age and education, exposure to environmental tobacco smoke, ethnicity and number of siblings influenced the frequency of infections, the findings showed.

Meanwhile, researchers concluded that antibodies passed on through the mother's milk, as well as nutritional and immunological factors, accounted for some of the differences observed.

In an article which appears in the BMJ's Archives of Disease in Childhood they conclude: 'Exclusive breastfeeding helps protect infants against common infections and lessens the frequency and severity of infectious episode not only in developing countries but also in communities with adequate vaccination coverage and healthcare standards.'

Janet Fyle, Professional Policy Advisor at the Royal College of Midwives, said the findings were further evidence of the 'many benefits of breastfeeding'. 'We know that breastfeeding is the default method of infant feeding for babies; good for mothers and good for the health of the nation,' she said. 'That is why we need to continue our efforts to ensure that we maintain a high rate of breastfeeding in the UK, particularly among those women with low rates.'

But she said more needed to be done to tackle the perceived "stigma" attached to breastfeeding. 'As a nation we need to look at the issues that militate against mothers breastfeeding for longer, such as the workplace, and facilities for mothers to breastfeed when they are out and about,' she added.

'The UK needs to see breastfeeding as a normal process, and to move away from some of the outdated and negative stigma that is depressingly still attached to it, specifically breastfeeding in public.'

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), human milk is the most suitable food for newborn and young infants and exclusive breastfeeding for at least the first six months of life is recommended.



Objective: To prospectively investigate the effects of breastfeeding on the frequency and severity of infections in a well-defined infant population with adequate vaccination coverage and healthcare standards.

Study design: In a representative sample of 926 infants, successfully followed up for 12 months, feeding mode and all infectious episodes, including acute otitis media (AOM), acute respiratory infection (ARI), gastroenteritis, urinary tract infection, conjunctivitis and thrush, were recorded at 1, 3, 6, 9 and 12 months of life.

Results: Infants exclusively breastfed for 6 months, as per WHO recommendations, presented with fewer infectious episodes than their partially breastfed or non-breastfed peers and this protective effect persisted after adjustment for potential confounders for ARI (OR 0.58, 95% CI 0.36 to 0.92), AOM (OR 0.37, 95% CI 0.13 to 1.05) and thrush (OR 0.14, 95% CI 0.02 to 1.02). Prolonged exclusive breastfeeding was associated with fewer infectious episodes (rs=−0.07, p=0.019) and fewer admissions to hospital for infection (rs=−0.06, p=0.037) in the first year of life. Partial breastfeeding was not related to protective effect. Several confounding factors, including parental age and education, ethnicity, presence of other siblings, environmental tobacco smoke exposure and season of birth were demonstrated to have an effect on frequency of infections during infancy.

Conclusions: Findings from this large-scale prospective study in a well-defined infant population with adequate healthcare standards suggest that exclusive breastfeeding contributes to protection against common infections during infancy regarding and lessens the frequency and severity of infectious episodes. Partial breastfeeding did not seem to provide this protective effect.

From: "Protective effect of exclusive breastfeeding against infections during infancy: a prospective study"

Amazing quackery

The supplier should do a long stretch in jail but don't hold your breath. I don't have much sympathy with the customers though. Anybody gullible enough to believe the claims will probably have a short lifespan anyway

Government health watchdogs have issued an urgent warning about a 'miracle' health drink that contains industrial strength BLEACH.

Hundreds of thousands of bottles of 'Miracle Mineral Solution' have been sold worldwide after makers claimed it cured illnesses including cancer and malaria. But its desperate users have suffered agonising bouts of nausea and diarrhoea after taking just a few drops of the fluid.

Shockingly, the health drink contains 28 per cent sodium chlorite solution - the equivalent to industrial strength bleach and six times the amount in a bottle of Domestos.

The Food Standards Agency has now warned people who have bought the drink to throw it away after Trading Standards received a deluge of complaints. A spokesperson said: 'If you look at a bottle of Domestos that's just 4.5 per cent sodium chlorite.

'The simple fact is not how this solution is taken but that you just shouldn't be drinking bleach full stop. 'We were alerted to the solution after a local authority received a complaint from somebody who had drank it. 'Sodium Chlorite is bleach. Bleach is not on the approved list of foods and it shouldn't be sold as a food supplement.'

Miracle Mineral Solution is sold over the internet by a man who gives his name as 'Jim Humble'. A bottle of the liquid costs £21.98 in American dollars and users must mix it with citric acid. Makers of the liquid claim that the solution can cure a range of illnesses including Hepatitis, cancer, Crohns disease, the flu herpes and TB.

But side-effects include severe nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea, dehydration and reduced blood pressure. If the solution is taken in large enough doses the sodium chlorite could be fatal. It is the equivalent of drinking industrial strength bleach.

An FSA spokesperson added: 'If you have any of this product you should throw it away. If you have consumed MMS and feel unwell you should consult your doctor. 'If the solution is diluted less than instructed, it could cause damage to the gut and red blood cells, potentially resulting in respiratory failure.

'If you are aware of MMS being sold in retail outlets, you should contact your local authority trading standards department.'

Nobody from Miracle Mineral Solutions was available for comment.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Pomegranate juice is no silver bullet: watchdog

US federal regulators have filed complaints against the makers of POM Wonderful Pomegranate Juice, saying there's no science to support claims that the products treat or prevent diseases such as prostate cancer and erectile dysfunction.

The Federal Trade Commission says POM Wonderful, its parent company Roll International Corp, its creators and an executive violated federal law by making false and deceptive claims about disease prevention and treatment.

The agency's complaint names POM Wonderful president Matthew Tupper and company founders Stewart and Lynda Resnick, a billionaire California couple whose holdings also include florist retailer Teleflora, Fiji Water and companies that produce Wonderful Pistachios and Cuties clementines.

POM Wonderful is seen as starting the pomegranate craze that has spread to everything from tea to smoothies, hitting ice cream, martinis and salad dressings on the way. The company's health claims are a hallmark of its advertising.

POM Wonderful says on its website it has spent more than $US34 million to support scientific research on POM products since 1998. Study topics include muscle recovery, diabetes, antioxidant potency, heart disease, prostate cancer and erectile dysfunction.

Regulators say the ads mislead in saying the research shows the juice or related pomegranate supplements prevent or treat certain diseases. "Any consumer who sees POM Wonderful products as a silver bullet against disease has been misled," David Vladeck, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, said on Monday. He said companies using scientific research in their advertising must have research that supports the claims.

The FTC will hold a hearing within eight months before an administrative law judge. The FTC cited advertisements in national publications including The New York Times and Prevention, on internet sites run by the company including and, and elsewhere.

Regulators question the scientific methods used and said some studies cited did not show POM Juice to be effective against the diseases. The claims in POM ads that the FTC cites include:

- "New research offers further proof of the heart-healthy benefits of POM wonderful juice. 30 per cent decrease in arterial plaque ... 17 per cent improved blood flow ... promotes healthy blood vessels...."

- "Clinical studies prove that POM Juice and POMx prevent, reduce the risk of, and treat prostate cancer, including by prolonging prostate-specific antigen doubling time."

- "You have a 50 per cent chance of getting (prostate cancer). Listen to me. It is the one thing that will keep your (prostate-specific antigens) normal. You have to drink pomegranate juice. There is nothing else we know of that will keep your PSA in check.... It's also 40 per cent as effective as Viagra."

The complaint asks that future claims about pomegranate-based products comply with Food and Drug Administration regulations, although that is not typically required for compliance with trade laws. Having the FDA approve claims would give the company more guidance, the FTC said.

The agency also wants to prevent POM and its parents, founders and the executive "from making any other health claim about any food, drug, or dietary supplement without competent and reliable scientific evidence".


Antioxidants can give you a malignant melanoma


Millions of people who take daily vitamin pills could be putting themselves at risk of the deadliest form of skin cancer. Research has revealed that supplements containing antioxidants and minerals appear to increase the chances of developing a malignant melanoma.

Volunteers given pills containing vitamin E, ascorbic acid, beta-carotene, selenium and zinc were four times more likely to get cancer than those who took dummy pills.

The findings come from a follow-up study to one in 2007, which revealed the risks to vitamin-pill poppers. The results of that research, by French scientists, showed that out of 13,000 adults, those who took daily supplements to stay healthy were at much higher risk of skin cancer.

To double-check their findings, the same team monitored patients for several more years. These results, published in the latest European Journal of Cancer Prevention, confirm that the increased risk virtually disappeared once patients stopped daily supplements.

Now scientists behind the research, carried out at the National Centre for Rare Skin Diseases in Bordeaux, are calling for those most at risk of skin cancer – fair-skinned types or those with a history of excessive sun exposure – to steer clear of supplements.

Women may be more at risk than men, possibly because they have more fat around the skin, where antioxidants and vitamins are mainly stored.

Malignant melanomas kill around 1,700 a year in the UK and are the third most common cancer in those aged 15 to 39. Over-exposure to the sun’s rays is the biggest cause and since the mid-1990s there has been a 24 per cent increase in cases.

So far, the only proven way of reducing risk is to use high-protection creams and wearing suitable clothing. But it had been widely assumed that taking antioxidants would reduce the risk, since supplements theoretically protect the skin against damage from the sun’s rays. The latest study, however, suggests supplements have the opposite effect.

Scientists do not think taking vitamins actually causes malignant melanoma, rather it somehow speeds up the development of a tumour.

The findings are likely to heighten concerns about over-use of vitamins. Earlier this year, Swedish researchers found that taking daily multi-vitamin pills raised the risk of breast cancer in women by almost 20 per cent. They said supplements could increase the density of breast tissue, a known risk factor for cancer.

It is estimated that nearly a quarter of all adults in the UK take antioxidant supplements or multi-vitamins on a regular basis. The market is worth around £500million a year.

Dr Carrie Ruxton, from the Health Supplements Information Service, which represents supplement suppliers, said other studies had found no link between vitamins and skin cancer. She added the low number of skin cancer cases in the French research also cast doubt on the results.

Cancer Research UK stressed that vitamins and minerals found in foods did not appear to harm skin in the same way. A spokesman said: ‘The best way to reduce the risk is to avoid sunburn.’


Monday, September 27, 2010

This weeks miracle food: Watercress

We get a new one of these most weeks. It's all theory, of course, including reference to that seemingly indestructible myth: anti-oxidants. There's no epidemiology and no use of even an animal model to demonstrate an effect on morbidity. But it apparently does everything except water your garden

Watercress is often placed to the side of a plate as a decorative garnish, but it has been revered for its health properties for centuries.

While these health claims may be debatable, watercress is packed with 15 essential vitamins and minerals. Now, scientists believe a daily dose may help combat breast cancer.

This month, researchers at Southampton University discovered that within hours of eating 3oz of watercress a day – about a full cereal bowl – a small group of breast cancer survivors had a higher level of cancer-fighting molecules in their blood.

They found the compound phenethyl isothiocyanate – which gives watercress its peppery taste – blocks the hypoxia-inducible factor protein which helps cancer tumours grow. They also found watercress helps ‘turn off’ the signals that cancer cells send out asking the body for more blood and oxygen.

Professor Graham Packham, who led the research, said: ‘I was surprised that eating one portion produced significant levels of this compound in the blood. It has the potential to have the same effect with other cancers.’

In fact, this is not the first time watercress – whose Latin name means ‘nose-twister’ – has been found to combat cancer. In 2007, Irish scientists revealed that a daily portion reduced DNA damage to blood cells, considered an important trigger in the development of cancer.

The trial involved 60 healthy men and women who ate 3oz of fresh watercress every day for eight weeks. They found that in addition to reducing DNA damage, the cress also increased the ability of cells to resist damage from free radicals.

But its cancer-preventative properties are not the only benefit. ‘Watercress is full of nutrients including iron, calcium and Vitamin A and C,’ says dietician Katie Peck. ‘It is low in sodium and high in water, so it is very low in calories.’

It is an excellent source of natural phytonutrients, substances in plants that have antioxidant properties such as isothiocyanates, flavonoids and carotenoids.

It also contains folate, which helps maintain normal blood levels of homocysteine (high levels are associated with an increased coronary heart disease risk) as well as decreasing the risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida.

Consultant dietician Sian Porter says: ‘Watercress also contains lutein, a carotenoid which is a plant component that provides the deep orange, yellow and red colours in fruit and vegetables. They have a role in helping to stay healthy and keep heart disease, cancer and macular degeneration at bay.’


Beware attention-seekers

Their mother probably didn't look when they were little and said to her "Look at me". There has never been any evidence of harm arising from the consumption of GM foods

Six female Greenpeace campaigners have been arrested for trespassing after staging a supermarket protest in Sydney's north on Monday over a Wyeth Nutrition baby formula they believe may be harmful.

The six were part of a 15-strong group who staged the sit-down inside a Neutral Bay Woolworths about 10am. They positioned themselves in front of the S-26 baby formula, made by the Pfizer-owned company Wyeth Nutrition, which they claim contains genetically modified (GM) ingredients.

A similar protest was held by Greenpeace at a Coles store in the Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy.

Police said the six women, aged between 20 and 30, were expected to be charged with trespassing later on Monday. ``Police spoke with the (Woolworths store) manager and then commenced negotiations with the group," a police spokeswoman said. ``They (the campaigners) left the store and then without warning went back inside."

Officers spoke with the manager again and the women were arrested a short time later when they refused to leave. The remainder of the group left of their own accord.

Greenpeace named the arrested six as Sarah Roberts, Melissa Freeburn, Rebecca Evenden, Anna Parente, Claire Parfitt and Olivia Rosenman, and said they would be assisted by a Greenpeace lawyer.

Greenpeace is angry over what it said was a lack of labelling on the S-26 baby formula and called on Woolworths and Coles to remove it from their shelves. Independent tests of the popular baby formula have found it contains traces of GM soy and corn which could be harmful to infants, Greenpeace Australia spokeswoman Laura Kelly told AAP at the supermarket on Monday. The formula is not labelled as containing GM ingredients.

Wyeth Nutrition said the company has had a strict policy of using only non-GM ingredients in all its infant formulas since 2001. ``It is important to note that trace amounts of GMO (genetically modified organisms) do not present a health or safety threat to infants," it said in a statement.

The company was concerned by the allegations made by Greenpeace and had requested a copy of the test results. ``Wyeth Nutrition would welcome the opportunity to work with Greenpeace and relevant authorities to address the matter in detail," it said.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Screen time leads to saggy faces for women (?)

This is just one person's opinion. It's not even epidemiology

A leading cosmetic surgeon has identified a growing phenomenon described as 'computer face' among professional women who work for long hours in front of their computers.

Dr Michael Prager, a Botox specialist, said that, of all his clientele, office workers were most likely to show premature signs of ageing. "If you are one of the unfortunate people who frown or squint while they are concentrating at the screen then, over time, you will inevitably end up with frown lines,'" he said.

"What is perhaps more surprising is the number of women with saggy jowls because they are sitting in one position for so long. "If you spend most of the time looking down then the neck muscles shorten and go saggy, eventually giving you a second neck.

He warned the problem is set to get worse as a generation grows up using computers throughout their working life. He said: "The women I am seeing at the moment have only been using computers at work for the last decade or so. "But women in their 20s have grown up with them and use them for every single task. It will be completely different for them and I think the problem is going to become much, much worse. "In another ten years, they could be looking quite awful."

Dr Prager, who has a practice near Harley Street, said he encourages his clients to put a mirror next to their computer so they can see if they are frowning at the screen. He said: "When people are stressed or thinking hard about something then they will often put on a "grumpy face" without even knowing what they are doing. "When my clients put a mirror next to their desk they are often shocked by the angry, frowning face which stares back at them."

According to Dr Prager there are several simple steps which can help stave off 'computer face', such as regular screen breaks and stretching the neck muscles. He added, perhaps not surprisingly, that after a couple of sessions of Botox, the habit of 'grumpy face' can be overcome.


'Miracle cure' market unpoliced in Australia

WIDESPREAD criticism of the Therapeutic Goods Administration has forced the Gillard government to look at overhauling Australia's drugs regulator because it is failing to adequately police the $2 billion industry in "miracle" cures and other quasi-health devices.

Claims that "therapeutic" products can cure everything from AIDS to cancer, guarantee weight loss or improve strength, balance and flexibility are misleading and deceptive and can sometimes lead to lethal results, health experts say.

The federal Department of Health and Ageing released a consultation paper on the advertising of therapeutic goods in June, saying it was important the public received accurate information about the risks as well as the purported benefits of these goods on the market.

"Concerns have been raised by some opponents of the current advertising framework that the system is not working to protect consumers as well as it might," the paper said. "There is a perception that the complaints handling process is not as transparent as it could be, and that the sanctions available to the [TGA's] complaints resolution panel … do not provide sufficient deterrence."

Unlike registered pharmaceutical drugs, most herbal and complementary medicines are "listed" by the TGA, which means their makers pay a fee and are expected to have evidence to back their claims. Listed products are not reviewed by the TGA but are subject to random audits.

Public Health Association of Australia chief executive Michael Moore said there was a perception the TGA did not take consumer protection seriously. Its "light touch" approach was no longer appropriate in an industry where Australians spend more than $2 billion a year.

He said product names such as "Fat Magnet", "Weight Loss Accelerate" and "Slim Me" were, in his view, misleading and deceptive and provided minimal or no information about known adverse side effects.

Under the Therapeutic Goods Act, there is no provision for the TGA to impose civil penalties for breaches of the advertising code. The TGA can only remove products from the register and refer repeated breaches of the advertising code to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions for criminal prosecution, where the maximum penalty is a $6600 fine for individuals and $33,000 for corporations.

TGA spokeswoman Kay McNiece said most companies supplying therapeutic goods to the Australian market did comply with advertising requirements, but "the complaint handling arrangements for those companies that do not comply could be improved".

One long-standing critic of the TGA, La Trobe University public health expert Dr Ken Harvey, said it was failing to protect customers from unproven complementary medicines and devices that may be shonky. "If the TGA moves at all, it moves with glacial speed," Dr Harvey said.

Federal Parliamentary Secretary for Health Catherine King said she was worried by the number of companies pushing the boundaries and would consider all 38 submissions before taking appropriate action


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Effect of Family Meals on Obesity Varies by Race (?)

One wonders why "research" as worthless as this was ever done. "The study didn't look at what children were eating or how much they consumed". WHAT you eat and HOW MUCH you eat has no relevance? Did the authors contemplate that blacks, Hispanics and whites might have characteristically different diets or that the parents in different groups might set different examples in how much they ate? Is there a difference between eating lots of fried chicken and lots of tacos, for instance? Do black parents "pig out" more than white parents do?

I guess that political correctness means that I am not supposed to mention that sort of thing but diet is an obvious uncontrolled variable that renders the meaning of the findings moot. Journal article here

Eating family meals may help fight obesity in white children, but it doesn't seem to benefit black children much, and could even raise Hispanic boys' obesity risk, new research shows.

The study, in nearly 17,000 U.S. children, didn't look at what children were eating or how much they consumed. "I think that's a topic for future research, to figure out just what's going on at the dinner table," Brandi Y. Rollins of The Pennsylvania State University in University Park, who helped conduct the research, told Reuters Health.

She and her colleagues report their findings in the September issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

Several well-publicized studies have shown that frequent family dinners may promote healthy weight and even reduce risky behaviors like drinking and smoking among adolescents and teens. But to date, Rollins said, there has been just one study of how family meals affect obesity risk in younger children. There's also evidence, she added, that family meals may be more beneficial to white teens than to black or Hispanic adolescents.

To investigate whether race, gender and household education level might influence the protective effects of family meals, Rollins and her team looked at data from the 2003 National Survey of Children's Health. The study included 16,770 boys and girls 6 to 11 years old, 72% f whom were non-Hispanic whites.

Forty-three percent of the white children were overweight or obese, compared to 60% of Hispanic children and 63% of non-Hispanic black children. White and black children ate about five meals a week with their families, on average, while Hispanic children averaged six family meals a week.

Non-Hispanic white kids who ate family meals every day were one-third less likely to be obese than white children who ate family meals twice a week or less. But there was no relationship between family meal frequency and overweight or obesity among black girls. For black boys, the risk of being overweight or obese decreased slightly as family meals per week increased.

For Hispanic boys who either lived in a single parent household or lived in less educated households (meaning the most-educated family member had not gone past high school), eating more family meals actually increased the risk of being overweight or obese.

There was no relationship, though, between family meal frequency and excess weight for Hispanic girls living with one parent or in less educated households, or for Hispanic boys and girls living in two-parent or more highly educated households.

"It is possible that parents within these ethnic populations used different child-feeding practices with their male and female children; previous research has shown this to be the case in other ethnic groups," Rollins and her team write. They note that one study found non-Hispanic white parents placed more food within reach for boys than for girls.

Another study found that Hispanic families were more likely than other ethnic groups to buy fast food for family dinners, the researchers add. "These family meals may not be the healthiest family meals," Rollins said.

Yet another possible explanation, she added, is that because black and Hispanic children are at higher risk of obesity than white kids, encouraging them to sit down to family dinners more often may simply not be enough.

The results suggest "that just telling people to have family meals isn't enough -- focusing also on what they're having during these family meals is just as important," Rollins said.


Food Fascists riding high in Boston

Do they really think thast they can force people to lose weight? It's tilting at windmills

First, it was smoking in restaurants and bars. Then, artery-clogging trans fat in fast food joints and bakeries. Now, Boston health regulators have their crosshairs fixed on soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages sold in city buildings.

Concerned about the girth of employees and visitors to government agencies, Boston officials are weighing — gingerly — whether to restrict or even prohibit the sale of calorie-laden refreshments on city-owned property.

The city has convened influential health, education, and housing leaders to develop a policy that aims to reduce consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages. While discussions are ongoing, Bill Walczak, head of a community health center and a member of the city’s panel, said, “Somebody has to take a stand, and if it isn’t the government and health care institutions leading the way to a healthier lifestyle, who’s going to do it?’’

There are precedents: San Francisco’s mayor earlier this year issued an executive order banning sale of sugary drinks, and New York has imposed rules governing the mix of beverages in city vending machines to favor water.

In both cases, politicians and health authorities cited the link between soft drinks and the nation’s bulging waistline: From the mid-1970s to 2000, the average American’s daily calorie load attributed to sugary drinks rose from 70 to 190, one study reported. And Harvard researchers found that women who consume more than two of the beverages a day have an almost 40 percent higher risk of heart disease than women who largely forgo them.

Boston’s earlier prohibitions on workplace smoking and trans fat arrived at a time when public sentiment had already shifted. But Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s top health official acknowledged in an interview that restricting the availability of sodas, which are already banned from the city’s school, could engender greater resistance than previous public health causes.

“I think we’re going to run into a big issue of people saying, ‘Why would you take away our sodas, why are you interfering with what we’re eating and drinking?’ ’’ said Barbara Ferrer, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission. “Unlike tobacco that is always harmful and if a person is smoking in the workplace it harms other people, I think people will look at sugar-sweetened beverages differently.’’

Ferrer said no policy has been drafted, but it appears inevitable that some measure will be adopted. The city promised when it received a $12.5 million federal stimulus grant to combat obesity and tobacco that it would “decrease consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages through counter-advertising and policy change,’’ according to a city document.

Unions representing city workers either said they were unaware of the discussions or did not return phone calls seeking comment. Firefighters declined to comment at a South End firehouse where a hulking blue Pepsi machine offers a dozen options, most containing sugar. Revenue from the machines is used by firefighters to help pay for coffee, utensils, and other dining supplies, said Fire Department spokesman Steve MacDonald.Continued...

Employees at City Hall were similarly reticent. The City Hall Deli on the eighth floor stocks a variety of soft drinks, as does the City Hall Coffee Stop in the bowels of the building. “I think everything has its place,’’ said the manager of the Coffee Stop, John Moreira. “We’ve got healthy and we’ve got junk.’’

The coolers there offer bureaucrats an array of choices: V8 and Diet Coke, Nesquik and apple juice, full-sugar sodas and designer iced tea. Water is the biggest seller, and diet sodas outsell the full-sugar varieties.

Banning the sale of unhealthy drinks would not necessarily stop workers from indulging, Moreira said. “They won’t get mad,’’ he said. “They’ll just bring it from home, or run across the street to CVS.’’

The trade group representing the biggest producers and distributors of soft drinks, including Coca-Cola and Pepsi, argues that it is unfair to demonize sodas when attempting to address a health condition as complex as obesity.

“The American Beverage Association and its member companies completely agree that obesity is a very serious public health challenge that we need to face,’’ association spokesman Chris Gindlesperger said. “Outright bans, they do nothing to teach people about balance and moderation. It’s overly simplistic and inaccurate to target one product or one ingredient when it comes to obesity.’’

But Walczak has already embraced a soft-drink prohibition at the Codman Square Health Center, where he is chief executive.

The nutrition club at the charter school located in the clinic demanded that the drinks be banished, as well as junk food once peddled in vending machines.

Walczak recalled that, in the 1980s, social workers at the health center smoked while counseling patients. “It would be considered bizarre to see someone smoking in a health care institution today,’’ he said. “We see this as the beginning of the food revolution.’’

Similar restrictions are being considered by other medical centers, as well. A tiny hospital in the Berkshires earlier this year banned sugary soft drinks and sports drinks. Now, one of the state’s biggest hospitals, Brigham and Women’s, is creating a task force to evaluate what strategies it should adopt to discourage soda drinking.

In an experiment at the hospital reported in a medical journal in June, researchers found that boosting the price of sugary soft drinks while keeping the cost of a diet soda steady yielded lower sales of the high-calorie drinks.

“With smoking, we’re talking about yea or nay, yes or no, there’s no median in there,’’ said Kathy McManus, the Brigham’s nutrition director. “When you’re talking about sugar-sweetened beverages, there is more of a continuum, so how to best reduce and then eliminate — there’s all sorts of potential strategies to be discussed.’’


Friday, September 24, 2010

New fears over safety of HRT after research shows withdrawing it from women can cut breast cancer risk

This is sheer speculation: "Scientists found that a decrease in the number of menopausal women taking HRT has coincided with a 10 per cent decrease in cancer rates." There has also been a decline in crime rates over recent years in the USA. Was that caused by women going off HRT? No-one has any certain idea of what is behind such demographic trends so it is just a wild guess to make the connection put forward in the article below

The safety of hormone replacement therapy has been thrown into further doubt after research showed that withdrawing it from women reduced the risk of breast cancer. Scientists found that a decrease in the number of menopausal women taking HRT has coincided with a 10 per cent decrease in cancer rates.

Fears over the treatment's safety were first raised in 2002 when a major U.S. study linked it to breast cancer, heart disease and strokes. It led to thousands of British women abandoning the pills, and within three years the numbers using it had halved to one million. But its link to breast cancer has since been disputed and in 2007 another study found that the risks applied only to those in their 70s and 80s – much older than women who usually take HRT.

Now Canadian researchers have found that the decline in use of HRT prompted by the health scares coincided with a 10 per cent fall in breast cancer rates in their country. They found the biggest decline in use of HRT was between 2002 and 2004, when the proportion of women taking it fell from 12.7 per cent to just 4.9 per cent. Over the same period, the number of breast cancer diagnoses fell by 9.6 per cent.

But the researchers also said that they did not think HRT actually caused breast cancer, it merely encouraged it to develop several years earlier. So women who developed tumours while taking the treatment may well have got them anyway.

The study found that the cancer rates began to rise again in 2005, suggesting that women who did not have HRT had postponed breast cancer by two or three years.

Dr Pritwash De, from the Canadian Cancer Society said: 'The nearly 10 per cent drop in invasive breast cancer incidence rate coincided with the decline in the use of hormone replacement therapy reported among Canadian women aged 50–69 years. 'The tandem drop in breast cancer incidence and use of hormone replacement therapy is a phenomenon that has been reported internationally.

'The results support the hypothesised link between the use of hormone replacement therapy and invasive breast cancer incidence and indicate that the sharp decline in breast cancer incidence in 2002 is likely explained by the concurrent decline in the use of hormone replacement therapy among Canadian women.

'To our knowledge, this is the first Canadian study to examine the link between population- level declines in the use of hormone replacement therapy and breast cancer incidence among post-menopausal women.'

HRT is usually prescribed to women in their 50s to treat the symptoms of menopause such as hot flushes, night sweats and mood changes, and it can also protect the bones.

Around 2.6million women in Britain are currently prescribed the treatment, which can be taken via a range of methods, including tablets, implants, skin gels and patches. This number has fallen from 6.2million in 2001, before the breast cancer study was published.


Breast milk no better than formula, says Norwegian Professor

Wicked Professor refuses to accept that correlation is causation -- points to third factor involvement

BREAST milk was no better for a baby than formula, a European pregnancy expert has said, claiming it made a child only slightly healthier.

Britain's Daily Mail newspaper has reported that Norwegian professor Sven Carlsen this week said breast-fed babies were slightly healthier, but it was not the milk that made the difference. Instead, he said, babies who were breast-fed had benefited from better conditions in the womb.

The professor, an expert in the hormonal changes of pregnancy, claimed: "Baby formula is as good as breast milk."

The bold statement is likely to reignite debate over whether "breast is best" and will possibly confuse mothers who are under pressure from Britain's Department of Health to feed their babies on breast milk alone for the first six months of life. Britain's National Health Service leaflets tell mothers that breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months will help prevent obesity, eczema and ear, chest and tummy bugs.

Avoiding formula, they are told, will cut the odds of a child becoming a fussy eater, as well as cut the mother's odds of some cancers and help with weight loss.

Prof Carlsen's claim came after he carried out a review of more than 50 studies into the relationship between health and breastfeeding. Most concluded that the longer a child was nursed, the healthier it would be.

The professor said while this might be true, it was because of a healthier pregnancy. His research shows that high levels of the male sex hormone testosterone in the womb affect a woman's ability to produce milk and to breastfeed.

With testosterone levels affected by the health of the placenta, which ferries oxygen and nutrients to the baby, the professor believes high amounts indicate poorer conditions in the womb overall. This means any differences in the health of a baby bottle-fed because its mother finds breastfeeding difficult are set before birth, rather than afterwards.

But a spokeswoman for England's Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Charlotte Wright, said the claims were "irresponsible and overblown". "Women should remember that we were not designed to be bottle-fed," she said. "Formula is an artificial alternative."


Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Pill-Breast Cancer Connection. Does it exist?

If so, it's a very small risk

Last summer, in a study of more than 50,000 African-American women, Boston University epidemiologist Lynn Rosenberg found a 65 percent increase in a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer among those who had ever taken the birth-control pill. The risk doubles for those who had used the contraceptive within the past five years and had taken it for longer than 10 years.

A commemorative piece flatly asserted earlier this year that "taking the pill has no impact on breast cancer risk."

Rosenberg's findings question that assertion. She wanted to study black women because they have been underrepresented in cancer research so far, even though they suffer from higher rates of "triple negative" breast cancer. This relatively rare form of breast cancer, in which the tumors lack certain genes and so are not responsive to standard treatments like tamoxifen, confers the highest and fastest mortality. In Rosenberg's work, it was these cancers that were linked to the pill. A number of other studies of women of multiple races support her data implicating the pill in breast cancer, including research done in New England; South Carolina; Long Island, N.Y.; and Scandinavia.

At the same time, other large studies, including one published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2002, found no increase in breast-cancer risk among pill users. Further complicating the health-risk equation, it's already well-established that the pill offers some protection to women from ovarian and endometrial cancers. One recent study of 46,000 women over the age of 40 by the Royal College of General Practitioners found that, despite a small increased risk of breast cancer in women under 45, pill-users as a whole actually live longer than other women. But this becomes less surprising when you figure that women who pop the pill tend to be healthier to begin with (for one thing, they have to see a doctor regularly in order to get a prescription).

So what are we to make of the breast-cancer connection? If it exists, why aren't the studies consistent? For one thing, Rosenberg explains that the association she found is relatively small. Compare the 65 percent increase in risk with the 2,000 percent increase in risk of lung cancer linked to smoking. Patterns are hard to spot because even when researchers use a large sample size, only a much smaller number of people will get cancer. (Even the smoking-lung cancer connection took decades of epidemiological head-scratching to figure out.) And if the pill is mostly causing the rare triple-negative type of breast cancer, the effect could be muddied in a study looking at breast-cancer disease overall.


An Australian female Hitler calls for infant formula to be made hard to get

Infant formula should be available only on prescription to boost breast feeding rates, an expert says. But Victoria's peak doctors' group and Melbourne mothers say the proposal goes too far.

Jennifer James, of RMIT University, said formula manufacturers should also be banned from marketing their products to the public.

"When women are having problems, and it's very challenging learning to breast feed, the formula is readily available and the marketing suggests that babies will thrive on it, so women go for it," Dr James said.

"The majority of women and new dads that you speak to will give you some reasons why it's important to breast feed but there's still this pervasive belief that 'I'll try it and if I can't do it, formula's just as good'. "I would like to see formula prescribed by a health professional rather than being available in supermarkets and chemists."

Melbourne mum Christine Rookas said it should be a mother's choice whether to breast feed or not. "I would be very frightened and afraid to think that formula will be prescribed," Ms Rookas, from Avondale Heights, said. "I think there's already a paranoia for mothers. They feel guilty enough about using formula milk."

Ms Rookas was still breast feeding six-month-old Neave, as she had her two older children, despite finding it tough. "I just kept persisting ... because it's more convenient rather than a huge health benefit," she said.

AMA Victoria president Harry Hemley said requiring a prescription for infant formula would be very inconvenient for new mothers. "There's no doubt that new mothers need more support to make sure their children are as fit and healthy as possible," Dr Hemley said. "Breast feeding is the best option for most new mothers, but not for everyone."


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Beer Linked to Psoriasis in Women -- but correlation is not causation

Once again the role of social class seems to have been overlooked. From what I know, beer is most likely to be consumed by the rougher end of working class women and poor people have worse health across the board anyway. Women with any pretensions to class tend to drink mixed drinks or wine.

Women who drink regular beer may be increasing their risk of developing psoriasis, an autoimmune disorder affecting the skin, new findings suggest. Other options, such as light beer and wine, were not linked to such a risk.

Researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and Boston University tracked 82,869 women who had not initially been diagnosed with psoriasis for about 15 years, from 1991 through 2005. The participants, from the Nurses' Health Study II, reported their own alcohol consumption and also, over the course of the study, reported whether a doctor had diagnosed psoriasis.

The researchers found that even relatively moderate amounts of beer seemed to increase the risk of psoriasis, with 2.3 drinks a week driving up the risk almost 80 percent.

And five beers a week more than doubled the risk of being diagnosed with this skin condition, as compared with teetotalers.

"We can say that if a woman would like to consume alcohol and if she has a family history of psoriasis or known psoriasis in the past or some other reason she might be predisposed to psoriasis, the alcohol of choice probably should not be nonlight beer," said Dr. Abrar A. Qureshi, lead author of the article appearing in the December issue of Archives of Dermatology.

But Bruce Bebo, director of research and medical programs at the National Psoriasis Foundation, feels the findings "need more investigation to determine whether there's a real connection or not."

And on the question of drinking in general, he added, "from the point of view of the health-care provider, trying to limit alcohol consumption for lots of reasons is important. If this encourages people to limit alcohol consumption, I think that's a positive outcome, but I don't think the National Psoriasis Foundation or any physician group would make a recommendation."

Previous studies have found an association between alcohol and psoriasis, although the reasons for this link were not clear.

"There is evidence that alcohol consumption can affect immune responses and psoriasis is an autoimmune disease," Bebo said. "There's also some evidence that it can affect the biology of [the skin cells known as] keratinocytes. But ... then why would it be nonlight beer, why not wine or other alcohol? Maybe there's something in wine that ... might reverse the effect."

"When we looked up the components of different alcoholic beverages, one thing that stood out for nonlight beer was the amount of protein, gluten in particular," said Qureshi, who is an assistant professor of dermatology at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston. "When we stumbled on this, we realized that there have been reports in the past that ingested gluten was associated not just with psoriasis worsening but other autoimmune diseases, such as celiac disease."

Another study in the same issue of journal found that psoriasis carries a heavy mental health burden, with people who have the disease suffering higher rates of depression, anxiety and even suicidality.

The link was more pronounced in men, according to the researchers from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

A third study in the journal reported that treating psoriasis with narrow-band UV-B light rays may increase vitamin D levels in patients and help reduce the burden of the disease.

But the Irish authors, who reported various financial ties with pharmaceutical companies, don't believe that the higher vitamin D levels actually were responsible for the psoriasis clearing.


Hard-wired for chocolate and hybrid cars? How genetics affect consumer choice

The ever-expanding role of genetics in explaining health and behaviour gets another big boost

Clues to consumer behavior may be lurking our genes, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

"We examine a wide range of consumer judgment and decision-making phenomenon and discover that many—though not all of them—are in fact heritable or influenced by genetic factors," write authors Itamar Simonson (Stanford University) and Aner Sela (University of Florida, Gainesville).

The authors studied twins' consumer preferences to determine whether or not certain behaviors or traits have a genetic basis. "A greater similarity in behavior or trait between identical than between fraternal twins indicates that the behavior or trait is likely to be heritable," the authors explain.

The authors discovered that people seem to inherit the following tendencies: to choose a compromise option and avoid extremes; select sure gains over gambles; prefer an easy but non-rewarding task over an enjoyable challenging one; look for the best option available; and prefer utilitarian, clearly needed options (like batteries) over more indulgent ones (gourmet chocolate). They also found that likings for specific products seemed to be genetically related: chocolate, mustard, hybrid cars, science fiction movies, and jazz.

The researchers also found that some tendencies did not seem to be heritable—for example, a preference for a smaller versus larger product variety or likings for ketchup and tattoos.

"The current research suggests that heritable and other hard-wired inherent preference components play a key role in behavior and deserve much more attention in marketing and decision-making research," the authors write.

The authors believe their work may reveal some important information on the genetics of "prudence." "Some people may be born with a tendency to 'be in the mainstream' whereas others tend to 'live on the edge," the authors conclude.

More information: Itamar Simonson and Aner Sela. "On the Heritability of Consumer Decision Making: An Exploratory Approach for Studying Genetic Effects on Judgment and Choice." Journal of Consumer Research: April 2011.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Shonky breast tests

"Shonky" is a splendid Australian word that is not fully translatable but is apt in this case. "Fraudulent" goes nearest to its meaning

CANCER specialists warn that private clinics offering unproven breast screening methods as a "safe" alternative to mammograms could be putting women's lives at risk.

Clinics selling botox, liposuction and spray tans are increasingly providing breast cancer screening that uses thermal imaging and "electrical impedance" technology. The methods are being marketed to women as young as 20, with claims they can detect cancer years earlier than mammograms.

Experts say the technologies are not backed by sufficient scientific evidence and those offering the tests often have little medical training. In many cases no doctor's referral is required and there are concerns that potentially life-threatening cancers could go undetected.

The education and research director with the Cancer Council WA, Terry Slevin, said commercially driven breast-check clinics were popping up around Australia.

"There's a prospect of women becoming very confused about what is or isn't proven, valid, scientifically rigorous breast cancer screening and I worry that that will lead to some women being diagnosed with breast cancer at a much more advanced, dangerous stage than might have otherwise been the case if they'd used more reliable technologies," Mr Slevin said.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration has already removed two screening devices from its list of registered medical goods, for making unsubstantiated claims. Another two companies using similar products are under investigation but cannot be named for legal reasons.

The Cancer Council and the Australian Medical Association say the industry's "aggressive" advertising is misleading and have written to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission asking them to also take action against clinics.

The letter includes complaints against one centre which, as well as offering spray tans, facials and laser therapy, provides "digital infrared thermal imaging", which it claimed could "improve early detection of breast disease by showing thermal abnormalities present in the body". Unlike a mammogram, in which the breast is compressed between two plates and an X-ray taken, a thermogram does not require contact with the imaging machine.

A spokeswoman for the Therapeutic Goods Administration said mammography was the only breast examination technique that had been supported by objective, randomised clinical trials.


Broccoli could provide potent pill to treat six million osteoarthritis sufferers

This is total speculation so far -- another example of trying to show that anything unpleasant is good for you and anything popular is bad for you. It's so predictable

Broccoli has been hailed by scientists as a 'super food' for joints which could cure millions of arthritis sufferers. The green vegetable is rich in the compound sulforaphane and initial research has suggested this may play a key role in protecting bones and joints and stop them from wasting away.

Scientists at the University of East Anglia have found the chemical blocks the enzymes that cause joint destruction in osteoarthritis, which is the most common form of arthritis. The team are now launching a new project that they hope will lead to a new broccoli-based treatment for Britain's six million arthritis sufferers.

Professor Ian Clark said: 'We all know broccoli is good for you but this is the first time it has been linked to a osteoarthritis. 'We know there is a chemical, sulforaphane, in broccoli that can slow down cartilage destruction and we want to see if this can actually get into the joints and stop the progress of the condition.

'The UK has an aging population and developing new strategies for combating age-related diseases such as osteoarthritis is vital - to improve the quality of life for sufferers but also to reduce the economic burden on society.'

Around 30 patients will be fed the cruciferous vegetable ahead of joint replacement operations. They will then be examined after their surgery to see if sulforaphane has successfully entered their joints. If the test is found to be effective then more patients will be recruited for a larger clinical trial.

Professor Clark said: 'The results could mean we prevent many, many more needing to go for surgery because progress of the disease will either be slowed down or completely halted. It really is a breakthrough project.' Currently, people suffering from arthritis can only choose between short-term pain relief or joint replacement operations.

Arthritis Research UK and the Diet and Health Research Industry Club (DRINC), is funding the £650,000 project.

Osteoarthritis is the leading cause of disability in the UK where it affects around six million people. It is a degenerative joint disease which gradually destroys the cartilage in the joints, particularly in the hands, feet, spine, hips and knees of older people.

Broccoli has previously been linked with reducing the risk of cancer and is regarded as a 'super food'. However, there has not yet been a major study of its effects on joint health.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Can drinking gallons of water really banish your wrinkles?

It is important to put this myth to rest as drinking a lot of water can lead to hyponatremia and death.

For years it has been one of the most basic rules of beauty: if you want a clear, youthful complexion, you must drink at least eight glasses of water every day.

Facialists, make-up artists, alternative health practitioners, nutritionists — and yes, we beauty journalists — have all agreed that a good dose of H2O will ‘flush out’ our systems, banish spots, plump out wrinkles and moisturise our skin from the inside out. It really is the elixir of great-looking skin.

Various dermatologists have suggested in recent years that this theory simply doesn’t wash, insisting the only thing maintaining moisture levels in our skin is the outer layer of skin.

But most beauty devotees remain convinced; just look at all those female celebrities permanently clutching a bottle of the stuff.

Recent research seemed to suggest the water lovers are right — and that certain types of water are even better for you than others.

In a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, female participants were told to drink one and a half litres of water a day for eight weeks without changing any other elements of their lifestyle.

Some drank ordinary tap water. Others drank Willow Water, a natural mineral water sourced in the Lake District. It contains salicin, a derivative of willow bark which, when metabolised, turns into salicylic acid, an ingredient that is found in a number of skin products and is known for its anti-inflammatory properties and acts in the same way as aspirin.

Each woman had her picture taken before and after the trial using the latest, state-of-the-art Visia complexion analysis system, which examines the extent and depth of wrinkles, the texture of skin and the amount of sun damage, to allow detailed comparison.

At the end of the trial, the results were astonishing. Those who drank ordinary tap water saw a 19 per cent reduction in their wrinkles. Those who drank Willow Water (and no, until this point I hadn’t heard of it, either) saw a dramatic 24 per cent reduction.

It all sounds very persuasive, but is it really true? As a beauty journalist, I’ve tried everything from lasers to ludicrously expensive face creams and Botox in order to banish my wrinkles. But could simply upping my water intake have saved me a fortune? There’s only one way to find out: put it to the test.

I have my face analysed by Visia, just like the guinea pigs in the new research, and embark on the Willow Water diet — 126 bottles of water, three a day for six weeks — and wonder if it will work its magic on me.

One of my main concerns about drinking so much is that I simply won’t have the time and will be spending all day in the ladies’. But, surprisingly, knocking back one and half litres a day isn’t that difficult. I manage to fit in three green bottles between meals and I even take them on holiday with me — 48 of them wedged into the car as we drive 2,000 miles around France.

Oddly, I find that I’m visiting the loo less frequently, but much more pleasingly I find that I feel calmer and sleep more deeply, too.

I don’t change my normal skincare regime: high strength vitamin C serum (SkinCeuticals’ Phloretin for the first month and Cellex- C’s High Potency Serum for the second) followed by SPF-50 broad-spectrum sunscreen.

My diet is much the same as always, apart from during the holiday when, of course, I eat far more bread, pastries and ice cream, and drink much more wine than usual. On the positive side, I also eat even more salad and fruit — bursting with water — than usual.

According to Dr Howard Murad, a U.S. dermatologist and ‘inclusive health’ expert, this is a particularly good way for us to up our water intake and is vital for controlling the ageing process.

Murad has long been of the opinion that rather than glugging water from a glass, you should increase your fluid intake through your food as much as you can since the body assimilates it far better.

‘The water we consume when we eat fresh fruit and vegetables isn’t just any water,’ he says. ‘It’s water that is encapsulated within the structure of food to provide us with a slow and steady infusion as we digest. ‘It’s also water that is locked into foods that are rich in antioxidants and other key nutrients, which protect and promote cellular integrity. ‘This is exactly the kind of water that we should be consuming.’

Given all the fruit and salad I’ve consumed in France, this news put me in a confident mood when I return to the Visia clinic. Peering at my reflection in the mirror that morning, however, the truth is I can’t see any visible difference at all. Indeed, the initial reading of the second image shows — to my horror — that my wrinkles are fractionally more extensive than before!

This would not surprise dermatologist Dr Nick Lowe, of the Cranley Clinic, West London. ‘Drinking water bears little relation to moisture levels in the skin,’ he says. ‘The thing that maintains the skin’s moisture levels is the skin barrier, which is the outermost layer. ‘If that is intact, it will trap moisture to stop it being lost from the skin. The way to moisturise is not from the inside, but from the outside. ‘You would have to be dehydrated almost to the point of death before it would show in the skin. ‘If you have a normal skin barrier, it will maintain as much moisture in the skin as it can, regardless of what is going on in the body.

The theory that drinking lots of water helps to improve acne has never been proven.’

When the before and after images of my face are carefully examined by leading cosmetic aesthetician Dr Rita Rakus (who has nothing to do with Willow Water or the trial), she reckons that there is slight lessening of the (many) wrinkles on my eyelids, but I’m certainly not convinced.

Peering closely at the images on the maximum magnification, I can just about see what she means, but the difference is so small it could just be that I’d had a good night’s sleep. I’d drunk 126 bottles of water in a bid to boost my skin and it hadn’t made a drop of difference.


Report links bone drugs, thigh breaks

But, miracle of miracles, admits that the link may not be causal. The disorder is also very rare so the risk is minute. The database for the study also seems to have been haphazard

Drugs to prevent bone loss, including Fosamax, Boniva, and Reclast, may be linked to an increased risk of fractures to the thigh bone, researchers said.

As many as 94 percent of 310 patients who had an uncommon type of fracture to the thigh bone were also taking one of the bone-loss drugs called bisphosphonates, according a report released yesterday by the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research. Most had taken the medicine for more than five years.

The drugs are used to treat osteoporosis, which leaves bones weak and more likely to break. US regulators should add an update on the potential link to the drugs’ prescribing information and study their long-term safety, the researchers said.

Patients should not stop taking the drugs based on this finding, because they prevent hip and spine fractures, which are more common than the thigh break, said the report’s lead author, Elizabeth Shane.

"There is no evidence that this is a causal link, but there is an association, so we need to have that information available saying there may be an increased risk," said Shane, a professor of medicine at Columbia University, in a telephone interview. "For patients with osteoporosis who are at high risk of having a fracture, the benefits outweigh the risks."

The US Food and Drug Administration said the agency is reviewing the report and will consider changes to the drugs’ prescribing information.

Americans spent $2.16 billion on bone-strengthening drugs in the first half of 2010, according to IMS Health Inc., a Norwalk, Conn., research firm.

Fosamax, which is available generically, generated $1.1 billion in sales in 2009 for Merck, based in Whitehouse Station, N.J., while Boniva brought $977 million in sales for Roche, based in Basel, Switzerland. Reclast produced $472 million for Novartis, also based in Basel. Warner Chilcott Plc’s similarly acting drug Actonel had $222 million in sales for the County Louth, Ireland company.

The report was conducted by a panel of scientists convened in 2009 by the American Society of Bone and Mineral Research, a Washington professional group representing more than 4,000 doctors and scientists.

Researchers looked at 310 cases of atypical femur fractures, which account for less than 1 percent of hip and thigh fractures, said the report. Most of the fractures occurred in patients who had been taking the drugs for more than five years. The review included published and unpublished data and interviews with pharmaceutical companies and US regulators.

"In clinical studies involving more than 28,000 patients, Fosamax has not been associated with increased fracture risk at any skeletal site," said Merck spokesman Ronald Rogers in an e-mail.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Father absence linked to earlier puberty among certain girls

At least they admit that they haven't got a clue why, which is refreshing. The small and complicated correlation found in a sample of only 80 girls suggest a random walk rather than any real relationships, particularly as even that 80 was further subcategorized racially to get the correlations reported. n= small, as they say in statistics

Girls in homes without a biological father are more likely to hit puberty at an earlier age, according to a new study led by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley's School of Public Health.

The findings, to be published Sept. 17 in the Journal of Adolescent Health, found that the absence of a biologically related father in the home predicted earlier breast and pubic hair development, but only for girls in higher income households. The findings held even after the girls' weight was taken into account.

"The age at which girls are reaching puberty has been trending downward in recent decades, but much of the attention has focused on increased body weight as the primary culprit," said study lead author Julianna Deardorff, UC Berkeley assistant professor of maternal and child health. "While overweight and obesity alter the timing of girls' puberty, those factors don't explain all of the variance in pubertal timing. The results from our study suggest that familial and contextual factors - independent of body mass index - have an important effect on girls' pubertal timing."

The findings came from the Cohort study of Young Girls' Nutrition, Environment and Transitions (CYGNET), an epidemiologic project headed by Lawrence Kushi, associate director of etiology and prevention research at the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research. The project is part of the UC San Francisco Bay Area Breast Cancer and the Environment Research Center (BCERC), one of four centers funded by the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Early puberty has been linked to greater risk for breast and other reproductive cancers later in life, among other health impacts.

"Although the main focus of the CYGNET Study is on environmental exposures, we are also keenly interested in the social and behavioral contexts in which maturation occurs," said Kushi. "These findings demonstrate that such factors may play important roles in the onset of puberty in girls."

The link between father absence and earlier puberty in girls has been found in previous research, but most of those studies relied upon recall of the girls' first periods, and few examined the contributions of body mass index, ethnicity and income.

In this new study, researchers recruited 444 girls ages 6-8 through Kaiser Permanente Northern California, and have been following them annually. Their analysis was based on the first two years of follow-up. They considered signs of puberty that occur before the start of menarche. In interviews with the girls' caregivers, the researchers asked about the residents in the girls' homes and their relationships to the children.

Among the girls studied, 80 reported biological father absence at the time of recruitment. Contrary to what the researchers expected, the absence of a biologically related father was linked to earlier breast development for girls in higher income families - those having annual household incomes of $50,000 or more. Father absence predicted earlier onset of pubic hair development only in higher income African Americans families.

The mechanisms behind these findings are not entirely clear, the study authors said. Evolutionary biologists have theorized that the absence of a biological father may signal an unstable family environment, leading girls to enter puberty earlier.

Another theory that has been posited is that girls without a biological father in the home are exposed more to unrelated adult males - specifically, the pheromones of these males - that lead to earlier onset of puberty. However, in this study, the presence of other adult males, including stepfathers, in the home did not alter the findings.

It is also unclear why father absence predicted early puberty only in higher income families, particularly for African American girls.

"It's possible that in lower income families, it is more normative to rely upon a strong network of alternative caregivers," said Deardorff. "A more controversial hypothesis is that higher income families without fathers are more likely to have a single mother who works long hours and is not as available for caregiving. Recent studies have suggested that weak maternal bonding is a risk factor for early puberty."

Another possibility is that higher income girls in father-absent homes may be exposed to more artificial light - which has been shown to accelerate puberty in animal studies - through television, computers and other forms of technology, according to the study authors. The researchers also suggested that higher income African American girls may be more exposed to certain beauty products, such as hair straighteners, which have estrogenic properties that could influence pubertal timing.

The study adds to the debate of why girls in the United States are entering puberty at an increasingly early age. Last month, a study of 1,200 girls led by BCERC researchers at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center found that about 15 percent of the girls showed the beginnings of breast development at age 7, an increase from similar studies conducted in the 1990s.

"The hunt for an explanation to this trend is significant since girls who enter puberty earlier than their peers are not only at greater risk for reproductive cancers, they are also more likely to develop asthma and engage in higher risk sexual behaviors and substance abuse, so these studies have broader relevance to women's health," said Bay Area BCERC's principal investigator Dr. Robert Hiatt, UCSF professor and co-chair of epidemiology and biostatistics, and director of population science at the campus's Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center.

"In some ways, our study raises more questions than it answers," said Deardorff. "It's definitely harder for people to wrap their minds around this than around the influence of body weight. But these findings get us away from assuming that there is a simple, clear path to the earlier onset of puberty."


Mama Obama cares about your health

Michelle Obama is the prettiest First Lady in close to half a century. She’s Jackie Kennedy with a better tan. She’s got school-age kids, which makes her the Nation’s First Mama, too.

So when Michelle Obama addresses the NRA — in this case, the National Restaurant Association — on the topic of preventing childhood obesity leading to adult diseases like hypertension and Type-II Diabetes, she’s not speaking as a private citizen but as a mouthpiece for Big Daddy Obama, President of the United States of America. Proof: her speech is on the official White House Website — a Dot Gov.

I was a fat teenager. Now I’m a fat guy in his fifties. I was skinny in between but I could only fight the battle of the bulge for so long before Herr Hamburger got me in the gut.

These days — if Michelle Obama took a look at what I actually eat — it’s supposed to be pretty healthy. Dr. Atkins said beef, cheese, and eggs weren’t going to cause my cholesterol to rise — the problem was carbs. Old Doc Atkins must have been right because I haven’t cut back on red meat, cheese, or eggs and my cholesterol and blood pressure are right where they’re supposed to be, despite my being what’s called “morbidly obese.” I do suffer from Type II Diabetes, which means I severely restrict high-glycemic-index foods. I haven’t had a sugary soda in decades. The ice-cream I eat is sugar-free and low-fat. I’ve learned to like broccoli and cauliflower, cook with olive oil, don’t eat rice or pasta, seldom eat a potato, and even bread is a rare luxury.

So aside from her being less familiar with the health benefits of an Atkins’ diet than I am, I can’t find much to fault with Mama Obama’s suggestions to the restauranteurs that a lot of what they put on our plates is bad for our waistline.

Still, I wish Mama Obama would shut her damned pie hole. It’s no business of the White House what I eat and whether it’s bad for my health. I already have a mother of my own and I don’t need a surrogate mother in Washington D.C. trying to shove her health care down my throat. My own daughter ate Mac and Cheese off the children’s menus in countless restaurants and today — at age nineteen — she’s in such good shape with such impressive upper body strength she could kick the asses of the White House staff without breaking a sweat. defines totalitarianism as “Form of government that subordinates all aspects of its citizens’ lives to the authority of the state, with a single charismatic leader as the ultimate authority.”

What’s more personal than what we eat? Why is the First Lady using her official charisma to talk to restaurant owners at all, with the always-present veiled threat coming from the center of power that if you don’t do precisely what we want we’ll point guns at you until you do — using the swarm of bureaucrats at the FDA, Department of Agriculture, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and EPA as shock troops?

Eat what you want, babe. Feed your kids what you want. Tell the White House Chef to cook what you want. Order the Veggie Plate on Air Force One. If I want your diet advice I’ll invite you to my table. Until then, I’m supersizing an order of fries in your name.


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Flu vaccine side effects worse than the disease

Report from Australia

PUBLIC health experts have called for an independent body to monitor drug safety after it emerged that young children were more likely to end up in hospital because of side effects from a flu vaccine than they were from the disease itself.

The analysis contradicts government safety advice that the harm did not outweigh the risk and raises concerns about the Therapeutic Goods Administration's assessment of the vaccine.

More than 1000 adverse responses in children under five were reported to the TGA by June this year, including nearly 100 instances of febrile convulsions, a seizure which in a small number of cases has been associated with long-term adverse health outcomes.

The side effects were linked to one of the three seasonal flu vaccines, Fluvax and Fluvax junior, from the drug company CSL, but the TGA maintained despite that, that "the overall risk-benefit balance of both products remains positive".

The Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer claims the advice was intended to indicate the drug should not be withdrawn from the market but said the government would reassess it in light of the research.

But research published yesterday in the journal Eurosurveillance showed Fluvax might have caused two to three hospital admissions due to seizure for every admission from flu it prevented.

The chief executive of the Public Health Association of Australia, Michael Moore, said further examination of risks was needed, at arm's length from the TGA. The government should consider creating an independent centre. "There is a concern … that the TGA is the body that approves vaccines and is also the body that determines what the risks and benefits are when concerns are raised," he said.

Peter Collignon, an infectious diseases expert at the Australian National University, said the vaccination program in children under five did more harm than good. "The TGA made that decision [about risk-benefit] without any evidence to back it up." Professor Collignon questioned the TGA's independence and transparency because some of its advisers had worked for drug companies.

The Chief Medical Officer, Jim Bishop, said the risk-benefit claim indicated the drug should not be withdrawn. The TGA had recommended other vaccines besides Fluvax be used for children under five. He defended the TGA's independence: "There is no evidence the TGA is obligated to drug companies and they have a number of ways to make sure their advice is independent," he said. "I feel comfortable about our investigation [of the vaccine, but] the fact of the matter is there is now new information available and the regulator will take that into account".

Heath Kelly, the study leader and an honorary associate professor at the University of Melbourne, said the government should check for vaccine side effects - not wait for reports. There should also be a national insurance scheme to compensate people if they had a bad reaction. "On very rare occasions, things can go wrong in vaccination programs. The community that recommended and promoted vaccination [should] provide support for any child who suffers serious adverse consequences."

Robert Booy, an infectious diseases expert at the Children's Hospital, Westmead, said that while the rate of seizures was unacceptably high, it was important to remember that continuing complications from them were extremely rare.

While this study indicated there would be more hospital admissions from seizures than would be prevented by the vaccine, children tolerated the other two vaccines well.

A spokeswoman for CSL said: "Extensive investigations are ongoing with international collaborators". It supported recommending that Fluvax should not be used in children under five until it could be confident of preventing problems.


Dangerous herbal "medicine"

Report from Australia

Homeopaths are recommending "unproven" herbal remedies, including belladonna and phosphorus, for whooping cough. A whooping cough epidemic has swept the country, and tragically turned fatal this week when a five-week-old boy died.

Homeopaths say their treatments can prevent and cure whooping cough, while doctors say that is "complete rubbish". Drosera and pertussinum are other herbal remedies commonly recommended.

Australian Medical Association immunity spokesman Dr Rod Pearce said anyone recommending homeopathic "vaccinations" or treatments was illegitimate. He said officially homeopathic organisations admitted people should be conventionally immunised. "It is complete rubbish. If someone misrepresents what they can do, that is a problem. The discussion we've had with them as a whole is that they'll recommend vaccinating.

"There's stuff that's got good evidence and there's stuff that's rubbish. There is total recognition that the only proven way to get protection is to get vaccinated."

SA Health says vaccination is the best way to protect children. It says adults, particularly, should be vaccinated to protect children too young to be immunised. In the wake of the baby's death this week doctors called for vaccinations to be freely available.

Dr Pearce said parents should be vaccinated and should give their child the first vaccination at six weeks.

There have been nearly 4000 cases of whooping cough in South Australia so far this year, but this was the first death in almost a decade. A four-week-old baby died in NSW last year. Dana McCaffery's parents have since become vocal advocates of vaccination. Yesterday, Toni McCaffery posted her condolences to the SA baby's parents on a Facebook page and repeated her plea for the Federal Government to raise awareness and offer free vaccination to everyone.

'I am in tears . . . please Mrs Roxon act on your promise," she wrote. "We have been pleading all year for the government to act and not wait for another death. To the family, we are so, so sorry."


Friday, September 17, 2010

Fit children have better memories?

The usual childishly naive epidemiology. Middle class children probably do more exercise and inherit higher IQ from their patents. So exercise and mental functioning are correlated but one does not cause the other. Once again all we are seeing is a social class effect

If you want to boost your child’s results at school, you could do a lot worse than ensuring that they do plenty of exercise. Scientists have already shown that physical activity can make you brainier. But a team in America has used scans to show that an important part of the brain actually grows in children who are fit.

Scientists also found that one of the most important parts of their brains was 12 per cent larger than those of unfit youngsters.

They believe that encouraging children to take exercise from a very young age could help them do better at school later. Researchers from the University of Illinois, in the U.S., studied the brains of 49 children aged nine and ten using a magnetic resonance imaging scan, a technique which provides very detailed pictures of organs and tissues in the body.

They also tested the fitness levels of the children by making them run on a treadmill. The scientists found that the hippocampus, a part of the brain responsible for memory and learning, was around 12 per cent larger in the fitter youngsters. They found that these children performed much better in memory tests.

Professor Art Kramer, who led the study published in the journal Brain Research, said the findings had important implications for encouraging individuals to take part in sport from a young age.

‘We knew that experience and environmental factors and socioeconomic status all impact brain development,’ he said.
‘If you get some lousy genes from your parents, you can’t really fix that, and it’s not easy to do something about your economic status.

But here’s something that we can do something about. ‘This is the first study I know of that has used MRI measures to look at differences in brain between kids who are fit and kids who aren’t.’

The findings could encourage parents and schools to make exercise more of a priority for young children.
Figures show the majority of youngsters lead inactive lifestyles, with a third of those of primary school age either overweight or obese.


Tennessee decides to piss into the wind

Because this is based on wrong assumptions (e.g. about what "healthy" food is) it will achieve nothing

“Tennessee officials will unveil a statewide anti-obesity plan Thursday that is aimed at making residents healthier over the next five years, according to the state health department.

The strategy, dubbed “eat well, play more,” will focus on the nutrition and physical activity of residents. It is supposed to serve as a roadmap to reduce chronic disease and obesity in the state, and will focus on policy and environmental changes where people live, work and play.

Currently, Tennessee is tied with Alabama as the second most obese state in the nation. More than 31.6 percent of adults are obese. About 17 percent of teens are obese.

Gov. Phil Bredesen and Health Commissioner Susan Cooper will present the plan for the first time at noon at the Tennessee Public Health Association’s annual education conference.

Following their announcement, they will launch the web site for the intiative,


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Autism drug has some promise

This is a very poorly-conducted study: Small sample, naive or absent taxonomy, no control groups and subjective assessment. Similar results could perhaps be obtained from a simple sedative or a placebo. The results seem however to warrant the setting up of a proper trial

A drug for autism has been hailed as the first treatment that could work against the condition. In a clinical trial, researchers found that it eased many of the distressing symptoms, helping sufferers improve their social skills and reduce tantrums. They were also able to make eye contact more frequently and became less irritable.

It is the first time the drug has been successfully tested on patients. And although it is many years away from being available here, the scientist believe their work could pave the way for treatments.

Researcher Dr Craig Erickson, from the Indiana University School of Medicine, who helped run the trial, explained: ‘We observed marked improvement in the majority of patients treated in the study, including reductions in agitation and tantrums. 'This work will potentially open up a door to treating disorders that has, until recently, been firmly shut.’

About one in 100 in the UK are diagnosed with an autism disorder. The severity ranges dramatically, but all sufferers experience problems with communication, imagination and their social relationships.

Although doctors prescribe anti-depressants and anti-psychotics for particular symptoms, there are no specialist autism drugs.

The new drug, Arbaclofen, is intended to rebalance the brain chemistry of those with autism. It was tested on 25 children with the condition aged between six and 17, over eight weeks. They suffered few side effects and by the end of the trial were calmer and more sociable. ‘We observed marked improvement in the majority of patients treated in the study, including reductions in agitation and tantrums'

They made eye contact more easily and were less anxious than at the start.

One teenager who took part in the trial was agitated at the start and was unable to stay in the room with the researchers for more than a few minutes. However, by the end, the patient was writing notes to the scientists and seemed less anxious and less aggressive.

Previous studies have shown that people living with the condition produce too much of the brain chemical glutamate which excites brain cells. Some may also make too little of another neurotransmitter called gamme amino butyric acid, New Scientist magazine reports today.

Dr Randall Carpenter, of Seaside Therapeutics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which has developed the drug, said: ‘We are trying to normalise signalling functions within the brain. ‘Too much activation with glutamate makes people with autism very sensitive to loud noises and other sudden changes in the environment, increasing anxiety and fear.’

Arbaclofen ‘may stop them being oversensitive’, Dr Carpenter added. The results of the trial were so promising, that a larger-scale test is planned. The results have not been published in a medical journal.

Autism charities welcomed the trial, but stressed that the number of people taking part was small. The results could also be biased because the drug was not compared to a placebo, a harmless ‘dummy’ drug. And the assessment of the children was subjective, meaning that they could be misinterpreted.

Amanda Batten, of the National Autistic Society, said: ‘As the nature of autism is so complex, many interventions have been tried and tested over the years, but what works for one person won’t necessarily work for another. ‘Further rigorous research is required into potential interventions, such as Arbaclofen, to properly understand and assess the impact that they could have on people’s lives.’


Melanoma breakthrough?

A double-blind trial would obviously be ethically impossible here, given the rapid progression of the tumours, but such a trial on an animal model would seem desirable. The two patients who got better could have been spontaneous remissions, which are not at all unknown with cancer. About a third of my skin cancers (BCCs and SCCs) vanish without treatment -- JR

IN WHAT is arguably the most significant use of genetic knowledge to tackle disease, scientists in California have created a drug that prevents the effects of a gene mutation linked to malignant melanoma.

The London Daily Telegraph reports that researchers have built on advances made by the human genome project to develop a drug that specifically targets the deadly cancer.

In a small clinical trial, melanoma tumors shrank by nearly a third in 24 of 32 patients with a mutation known as B-RAF - and in two other people, the tumors disappeared completely - according to the research, published in the journal Nature.

Plexxikon, the company behind the the drug - preliminarily called PLX4032 - has also begun working on a test to determine whether individual melanoma sufferers have the mutation and thus would respond to the treatment.

While the drug's long-term effects are unknown, and it does cause unwanted side effects, its initial results gave hope to scientists and cancer patients alike that specific chemicals can be used to target specific diseases.

Sir Mark Walport, director of UK cancer charity the Wellcome Trust, said that the breakthrough was a "penicillin moment" for cancer researchers. However, he added: "We have got to balance the hype and the hope. Cancer is complicated."