Tuesday, April 10, 2012

You CAN have that plate of chips (fries): Why fried foods are not always bad for you

For years we have been told that eating too much fried food is a sure-fire recipe for a heart attack.

However research from Spain, published in the British Medical Journal, found that the amount of oil consumed makes absolutely no difference to the incidence of heart disease.

The study monitored the diets and cooking methods of 40,000 people aged between 29 and 69 over an 11 year-period.

Participants were asked whether the food they ate was fried, battered, crumbed or sautéed with their diets divided into ranges of fried food consumption.

Fried food was defined as food for which frying was the only cooking method used.

None of the participants had heart disease when the study began, but by the end there were 606 events linked to heart disease and 1,134 deaths.

However there was no link between the heart attack deaths and the amount of oil a person consumed.

Professor Michael Leitzmann from the University of Regensburg in Germany, said the study exploded the myth that fried food 'bad for the heart'.

However he added that the research 'does not mean that frequent meals of fish and chips will have no health consequences.'

In Spain, people fry using unsaturated olive or sunflower oil as opposed to saturated fats like butter, lard and palm oil.

Fried food is also more calorific because it absorbs the fat of the oils, so too much can lead to weight gain which carries serious health consequences.

The authors of the study conclude: 'In a Mediterranean country where olive and sunflower oils are the most commonly used fats for frying, and where large amounts of fried foods are consumed both at and away from home, no association was observed between fried food consumption and the risk of coronary heart disease or death.'


The one-off jab that could stop the most common cause of age-related blindness in elderly

Very early days for this yet

A chemical that will stop people from developing the most serious form of age-related macular degeneration has been found by scientists.

Given as a one-off injection, it would keep the disease at bay, allowing elderly men and women to continue to everyday activities from reading the newspaper to driving or watching TV.

The most common cause of blindness in the elderly, age-related macular degeneration affects a quarter of over-60s in the UK and more than half of over-75s.  The number of sufferers is expected to treble in the next 25 years as the population ages but there are few treatments - and no cure - for the condition.

Caused by the deterioration and death of the cells in the macula, the part of the retina used to see straight ahead, robs sufferers of their central vision. The more common ‘dry’ form affects the eyes gradually, sometimes over many decades.

But one in seven of those with dry AMD will develop the more ‘serious’ wet form and lose their central vision almost immediately.

The breakthrough, from Trinity College London, could prevent dry AMD turning into the more serious form, allowing people to continue going about their day-to-day lives.

In tests on animals and on human eyes donated to medical research, a husband and wife team of scientists showed an immune chemical called IL-18 to be crucial to the conversion to the more serious form of the disease.  They believe that increasing levels of IL-18 in the eye will stop the process in its tracks in people.

Dr Matthew Campbell said: ‘It means if you take someone with dry AMD and inject IL-18 into the retina, you could potentially prevent them from ever getting wet AMD.’ However, he stressed that the research is at an early stage.

Dr Sarah Doyle, his wife and fellow researcher, said: ‘Our results directly suggest that controlling or indeed augmenting the levels of IL-18 in the retinas of patients with dry AMD could prevent the wet form of the disease.’

There are drugs that can be used to improve vision in those with wet AMD. But they are given late in the course of the disease and have to be regularly injected into the eye.

Another treatment, called photodynamic therapy, is only suitable for around a fifth of patients.

In contrast, it is possible that a jab that boosts IL-18 levels will be a widely suitable one-off treatment.

The researchers, who detail their work in the journal Nature Medicine, are trying find a way of inserting gene for IL-18 into people’s eyes. Ferried into the eye inside an empty virus shell, it would ‘switch on’ and produce IL-18 when needed.

Given routinely to people with dry AMD, it should stop them developing the more serious form.

Dr Campbell said: ‘Essentially, it’s vaccination. More work needs to be done on this disease because the population is getting older and it is going to get more prevalent.’

If animal trials are successful, the treatment may be given to patients for the first time in around five years.

Widespread use is around a decade away and dependent on any drug being shown to be safe and effective in stringent, large-scale trials.

Avril Daly, of charity Fighting Blindness Ireland, which part-funded the research, said that a treatment that stopped dry AMD from turning into the more serious form would make a huge difference.

‘Anything that could prevent the onset of wet macular degeneration would be a huge relief and a huge benefit, not only to the individuals themselves but also to the healthcare service.’


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