Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Teenager suffering from bizarre food disorder only eats chips and cheese and suffers panic attacks at the thought of fresh vegetables

Interesting that a severely limited diet for 8 years  seems to have caused no harm aside from her being overweight.  It shows how adaptible the human physiology is.  Having NONE of the vaunted "5 a day" appears to have had no effect on anything

A teenager suffering from food phobia has had nothing but cheese and chips for eight years – because other food petrifies her.

Abi Stroud suffers panic attacks at the thought of eating fresh fruit and vegetables and even seeing someone peel a banana makes the 18-year-old heave.

The A-level student’s average weekly diet consists of three blocks of mature cheddar, three bags of frozen chips and three bags of bread – but only from the right brands.

Abi, from Newport, Wales, began refusing food aged ten and says she is so embarrassed by her phobia that she has never had a boyfriend.

The unusual condition, called Selective Eating Disorder (SED), means she has a phobia of almost all foods, leaving her scared of trying anything new and was once reduced to tears by a teacher who tried to tempt her to try a chicken nugget.

Abi said: ‘I'm living off chips and cheese and I hate it. I'm so embarrassed about it - I've never had a boyfriend because I'm worried about what he would think.

‘I never go out for dinner with friends or eat with other people because so I'm worried about being expected to eat something else.

Abi will only eat food prepared by her mother Debra, 42, but will extend to bread and chips from her local takeaway when her mother and father Russell, 42, are away.

As she is finishing her A-levels the prospect of University which looms come September is terrifying the teen.  'I'm going to uni in September and I really want to get help so I can enjoy myself and not have to think about chips and cheese.’

The student’s condition has been a part of her life for eight years and Abi believes it may be connected to her grandmother’s death with whom she was very close.

She said: ‘When I was 10 I stopped eating just about everything. I physically couldn't put something I didn't want into my mouth.

‘I don't remember when it happened but it was around the time my nana died and it could have had a psychological effect.  ‘If someone asks me to try something else it makes my heart race. The smell hits me first, then the thought of the texture on my tongue.

‘Once on a school trip my teachers tried to get my to eat a chicken nugget and I burst into tears.

‘It's so embarrassing that I pretend to like things when I don't. If someone posts a picture of food on Facebook, I'll say it looks really good. But in reality I'd never touch it."

As well as chips and cheese, Abi makes chip butties using white bread - but only if it's the right brand.

She goes without breakfast, has a plate of chips and cheese for lunch then another for dinner with a chip butty to finish.

Her diet had a severe effect on her health. By the age of 16,  Abi weighed 15 stone and went to the doctor to find out more about her phobia, but was dismissed.

She said: "The doctor said it was a phase I was going through and basically told me I needed to get over it or I would never have children and probably die young - I was devastated.’

However, instead of changing her diet and introducing healthier food, Abi started eating less to control her weight.

‘I cut down on the amount of chips and cheese I was eating because I still couldn't face changing my diet."

Last year Abi was referred to a specialist who diagnosed her with SED - and through diet and exercise she slimmed to 13 stone.  She said: ‘Now I know it's not just me being a fussy eater I feel more confident.  ‘I'm determined to try something new.'


Mayor Bloomberg pushing NYC hospitals to hide baby formula so more new moms will breast-feed

Like the good Leftist he is, a resort to coercion is a reflex for him

The nanny state is going after moms.  Mayor Bloomberg is pushing hospitals to hide their baby formula behind locked doors so more new mothers will breast-feed.

Starting Sept. 3, the city will keep tabs on the number of bottles that participating hospitals stock and use — the most restrictive pro-breast-milk program in the nation.

Under the city Health Department’s voluntary Latch On NYC initiative, 27 of the city’s 40 hospitals have also agreed to give up swag bags sporting formula-company logos, toss out formula-branded tchotchkes like lanyards and mugs, and document a medical reason for every bottle that a newborn receives.

While breast-feeding activists applaud the move, bottle-feeding moms are bristling at the latest lactation lecture.  “If they put pressure on me, I would get annoyed,” said Lynn Sidnam, a Staten Island mother of two formula-fed girls, ages 4 months and 9 years. “It’s for me to choose.”

Under Latch On NYC, new mothers who want formula won’t be denied it, but hospitals will keep infant formula in out-of-the-way secure storerooms or in locked boxes like those used to dispense and track medications.  With each bottle a mother requests and receives, she’ll also get a talking-to. Staffers will explain why she should offer the breast instead.

“It’s the patient’s choice,” said Allison Walsh, of Beth Israel Medical Center. “But it’s our job to educate them on the best option.”

Lisa Paladino, of Staten Island University Hospital, said: “The key to getting more moms to breast-feed is making the formula less accessible. This way, the RN has to sign out the formula like any other medication. The nurse’s aide can’t just go grab another bottle.”

Some of the hospitals already operate under the formula lockdown.
“New York City is definitely ahead of the curve,” said Eileen DiFrisco, of NYU Langone Medical Center, where the breast-feeding rate has surged from 39 to 68 percent under the program.

Breast-feeding in the first weeks gives a baby a critical healthy start, many medical experts say. It helps the digestive system develop and protects the baby with the mother’s immunities. Nursing also helps the mother recover from childbirth.

But not everyone is convinced. “They make formula for a reason, and the FDA makes sure it’s safe,” said Roxanne Schmidt, whose 14-month-old twins were fed with formula from birth. “Locking it up is just wrong.”


Monday, July 30, 2012

Night shifts can raise risk of heart attacks and strokes by more than 40%

Ya gotta laugh.  Shift workers had more heart attacks but were not more likely to die young!  So shift work must be GOOD for some other things!

Shift work can dramatically increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes, warn researchers.  A study of two million people found shift workers are almost 25 per cent more likely to suffer.

Night shift workers run the highest risk of 41 per cent, says a study published on the British Medical Journal website bmj.com.

People working shifts also have higher levels of unhealthy behaviours such as eating junk food, sleeping badly and not exercising, which are linked to heart problems.  But researchers said they took this into account - and the excess risks remained.

The latest study is the biggest analysis of shift work and likelihood of vascular problems including heart attacks, strokes and angina.

Shift work has long been known to disrupt the body clock and be linked to high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, but the overall impact on cardiovascular health has been unclear.

A team of international researchers analysed the results of 34 studies involving 2,011,935 people to investigate whether shift work was associated with major vascular events.

Shift work was defined as evening shifts, irregular or unspecified shifts, mixed schedules, night shifts and rotating shifts, and the studies also contained day workers or the general population for comparison.

Altogether 17,359 had some kind of coronary event, 6,598 had heart attacks and 1,854 had ischaemic strokes caused by lack of blood to the brain.  These events were more common among shift workers than other people.

Shift work was associated with a 23 per cent increased risk of heart attack, 24 per cent rise in coronary events and five per cent extra strokes.

These risks remained consistent even after adjusting for factors such as study quality, socioeconomic status and unhealthy behaviours in shift workers.

Night shifts were linked with the steepest increase in risk of 41 per cent for coronary events.  However, shift work was not associated with increased death rates from any cause.

Daniel Hackam, Clinical Pharmacologist, Stroke Prevention & Atherosclerosis Research Centre (SPARC), London, Ontario, Canada, said the relative risks might appear modest, but millions of people do shift work which means the overall risks are high.

He said screening programmes could help identify and treat risk factors, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

‘Shift workers should be educated about cardiovascular symptoms in an effort to forestall or avert the earliest clinical manifestations of disease’ he added.

There has been mounting evidence that night shift working might boost cancer risk because of the disruption to the body clock and hormone production.

Previous research found a link between night shifts and increased risk of breast cancer in women.

In 2007 the International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded that shift work was ‘probably carcinogenic’.

More here

Are statins good for asthma?

Admitted below is that the side-effects of statins may make the cure worse than the disease

Asthma sufferers may soon have a new weapon against their condition.  A study suggests those taking the cholesterol-lowering drugs statins alongside inhaled corticosteroids are half as likely to require hospital attention.

Researchers at the University of Mississippi studied 479 patients on statins and inhaled corticosteroids, and 958 just taking corticosteroids.

At least one asthma-related hospitalisation was observed in 3.79 per cent of the first group, compared with 6.47 per cent of the second group.  Those on statins were much less likely to go to A&E – 4.18 per cent compared with 9.08 per cent.

‘This is the most promising study yet,’ says consultant physician Dr Shahid Hamid, at Princess Royal University Hospital in Kent.

‘We know statins have uses beyond the treatment of heart conditions.   'They have anti-inflammatory properties, which means they have other – as yet mostly unexplored – purposes. Asthma is an inflammatory condition so there is clearly a link.’

He says doctors are aware patients admitted to hospital with pnuemonia have a better prognosis if given statins.

‘However, there has been controversy about taking statins for asthma and they may have unpleasant side effects.

‘It is still too soon to start prescribing statins as a matter of course. If you are on statins and have asthma, you must report any change in your condition,’ says Dr Hamid.


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Australian doctors call for hormone replacement therapy rethink

As I was critical of the HRT scare from the beginning, I am pleased to see this

It has been 10 years since an alarming US study found HRT increased a woman's risk of breast cancer, strokes and heart attack.  But a decade later, medical professionals agree that those findings were flawed.

Doctors say the pharmaceutical industry has withdrawn from sale half of all the available therapies, while extreme product warnings are unnecessarily frightening and outdated.

But there is still confusion amongst women and GPs about the best treatment.

Gynaecologist Dr John Eden, head of the Sydney Menopause Centre at the Royal Hospital for Women, says the 2002 Women's Health Initiative Study in the US changed the lives of millions of women.

"It terrified women, there's no doubt about that, it was laced with fear," he said.  "Probably the most dramatic example is that before Women's Health Initiative (WHI) I would hardly ever prescribe an anti-depressant, since WHI I've become an expert in anti-depressants, and that's because I see there's a small group of women, probably around one-in-eight, who have severe, intractable sweats and flushes day and night for the rest of their lives."

Margaret Miller is one of those with severe symptoms.  "It was pretty uncomfortable. You're sitting in a meeting room, you might have 20 other people in that meeting and all of sudden you start - it looked like your head started to leak with water and it drips down your face; it is so embarrassing," she said.

The 56-year-old endured more than two years of this before turning to Hormone Replacement Therapy.

She was aware of the WHI study linking HRT with a higher risk of breast cancer but nothing else worked.  "I was the stage where I would have taken a cyanide tablet. I didn't care as long as it stopped the sweats and this itching and this terrible feeling all the time that you weren't human," she said.

The US study saw women abandon HRT in droves but a decade on doctors say many did so unnecessarily, because the findings were flawed.

Dr Eden says the majority of participants were aged over 60, were not newly menopausal and would not normally be treated.  In fact, for many women under 60, doctors say the benefits outweigh the risks.

Australasian Menopausal Society president Dr Jane Elliott says women should have had easier access to HRT.  "I think a whole decade of women have missed out on the option of that treatment," she said.  "It's not for everyone, it's not a panacea, but it certainly should be something where women at least feel they can consider it."

Dr Elliott says the options are now limited and the warnings on products are extreme.

"The problem is the actual number of TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration) options has decreased in Australia," she said.   "The number of PBS (Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme) options has decreased in Australia and there are what's called black box warnings on HRT preparations that women read. They're really out date."

Dr Eden agrees.  "We've lost almost half of our hormone therapies over the last decade and the pharmaceutical industry is quite open about it, they've withdrawn them because of business reasons, sales have gone down and that means we've got fewer choices now," he said.

And the bureaucrats don't care

A spokeswoman for the Therapeutic Goods Administration says the extreme warnings on HRT products are considered current.

She says the safety information would not change without a comprehensive review, which is normally initiated by an application from the sponsor of the product.


Science May Have Just Beaten Prostate Cancer

How do you know when your new cancer drug is working better than expected? When they shut down the clinical trial so that every participating patient can receive it.

Johnson & Johnson's Zytiga is kind of a big deal. The FDA approved its use last year for advanced prostate cancer patients who had already received chemo but whose cancer had still metastasized. Prostate cancer is typically treatable for the 200,000 American men who contract it annually, as long as it is caught before it spreads. Once it does, the cancer typically goes to bones where it becomes resistant to normal testosterone-blocking hormonal therapies. Zytiga, however, is a unique cancer-fighting compound that penetrates cancerous cells and shuts down its testosterone production—quickly killing off the damaged cells and preventing their spread. What's more, Zytiga remains effective after the cancer metastasizes and other drugs lose their punch.

What the new study from the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center—presented yesterday at the American Society of Clinical Oncology's annual meeting in Chicago—shows is that Zytiga can be prescribed much earlier in the disease's progression, specifically before metastasization, with incredible results.

1,088 prostate cancer patients in 12 countries participated in the trial. Each man received the standard low-dose prednisone treatment, with half also getting Zytiga and the other receiving a placebo. Researchers almost immediately discovered that, in the Zytiga group, the cancer progressed at only half the speed as the control group, with patients reporting significantly less pain and a noticeable delay before they had to undertake chemo. The results are so stupendous that the trial was cancelled to allow every patient access to the drug.

"After that first bottle, my pain went away and I just felt like my life was turning around," Rodolfo Chavez, 83, a former longshoreman from San Pedro told SFGate. "I'm still taking them. I'm on my 10th bottle and supposed to get another bottle today."

The FDA has yet to approve Zytiga for earlier use and won't do so until at least next year when the study's final results are published but this could be a beacon for late-stage prostate cancer patients who have otherwise run out of treatment options.


Friday, July 27, 2012

Amazing:  A failure reported  -- followed by a last minute save

"Negative" results are so rarely reported that my eyes nearly popped out when I saw the article immediately below.  A big study into  intake  of calcium and vitamin D found that they had no beneficial effect at all!

But my cynicism returned when I saw the article immediately following it.  The "failed" study was led by Alison Avenell and it seems that she was very disappointed by her results.  So she called on a big Danish knight in statistical armour to rescue her.

 The second study below rescues her hypothesis.  But it does so only by rounding up a whole heap of previous studies and amalgamating their data into one big statistical blob comprising 70,528  people.  Only then was he able to squeeze out some  evidence in favour of Alison's hypothesis.  The Abstracts from both studies are given below.

All I can say is that if you have to use 70,000 people to find some effect, it is a pretty weak effect and not one that anybody should bother about.  Quite tiny relationships can be demonstrated as statistically significant on samples of as few as 200 people.

And there are many pitfalls in meta-analyses.  The selection of which datasets to include is notoriously arbitrary, for instance

Long-Term Follow-Up for Mortality and Cancer in a Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial of Vitamin D3 and/or Calcium (RECORD Trial)

By Alison Avenell et al.


Context: Vitamin D or calcium supplementation may have effects on vascular disease and cancer.

Objective: Our objective was to investigate whether vitamin D or calcium supplementation affects mortality, vascular disease, and cancer in older people.

Design and Setting: The study included long-term follow-up of participants in a two by two factorial, randomized controlled trial from 21 orthopedic centers in the United Kingdom.

Participants: Participants were 5292 people (85% women) aged at least 70 yr with previous low-trauma fracture.

Interventions: Participants were randomly allocated to daily vitamin D3 (800 IU), calcium (1000 mg), both, or placebo for 24–62 months, with a follow-up of 3 yr after intervention.

Main Outcome Measures: All-cause mortality, vascular disease mortality, cancer mortality, and cancer incidence were evaluated.

Results: In intention-to-treat analyses, mortality [hazard ratio (HR) = 0.93; 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.85–1.02], vascular disease mortality (HR = 0.91; 95% CI = 0.79–1.05), cancer mortality (HR = 0.85; 95% CI = 0.68–1.06), and cancer incidence (HR = 1.07; 95% CI = 0.92–1.25) did not differ significantly between participants allocated vitamin D and those not. All-cause mortality (HR = 1.03; 95% CI = 0.94–1.13), vascular disease mortality (HR = 1.07; 95% CI = 0.92–1.24), cancer mortality (HR = 1.13; 95% CI = 0.91–1.40), and cancer incidence (HR = 1.06; 95% CI = 0.91–1.23) also did not differ significantly between participants allocated calcium and those not. In a post hoc statistical analysis adjusting for compliance, thus with fewer participants, trends for reduced mortality with vitamin D and increased mortality with calcium were accentuated, although all results remain nonsignificant.

Conclusions: Daily vitamin D or calcium supplementation did not affect mortality, vascular disease, cancer mortality, or cancer incidence.


But you can't keep true believers down

Vitamin D with Calcium Reduces Mortality: Patient Level Pooled Analysis of 70,528 Patients from Eight Major Vitamin D Trials

Lars Rejnmark, Alison Avenell, et al.


Introduction: Vitamin D may affect multiple health outcomes. If so, an effect on mortality is to be expected. Using pooled data from randomized controlled trials, we performed individual patient data (IPD) and trial level meta-analyses to assess mortality among participants randomized to either vitamin D alone or vitamin D with calcium.

Subjects and Methods: Through a systematic literature search, we identified 24 randomized controlled trials reporting data on mortality in which vitamin D was given either alone or with calcium. From a total of 13 trials with more than 1000 participants each, eight trials were included in our IPD analysis. Using a stratified Cox regression model, we calculated risk of death during 3 yr of treatment in an intention-to-treat analysis. Also, we performed a trial level meta-analysis including data from all studies.

Results: The IPD analysis yielded data on 70,528 randomized participants (86.8% females) with a median age of 70 (interquartile range, 62–77) yr. Vitamin D with or without calcium reduced mortality by 7% [hazard ratio, 0.93; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.88–0.99]. However, vitamin D alone did not affect mortality, but risk of death was reduced if vitamin D was given with calcium (hazard ratio, 0.91; 95% CI, 0.84–0.98). The number needed to treat with vitamin D plus calcium for 3 yr to prevent one death was 151. Trial level meta-analysis (24 trials with 88,097 participants) showed similar results, i.e. mortality was reduced with vitamin D plus calcium (odds ratio, 0.94; 95% CI, 0.88–0.99), but not with vitamin D alone (odds ratio, 0.98; 95% CI, 0.91–1.06).

Conclusion: Vitamin D with calcium reduces mortality in the elderly, whereas available data do not support an effect of vitamin D alone.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Flame retardant risks overblown

Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and 25 members of Congress recently sent a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson urging quick action on regulations related to a class of flame retardant chemicals called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs).

Supposedly, consumers are in grave danger from these chemicals, and EPA needs to act quickly. The lawmakers lament in their letter that the EPA “must undertake lengthy rulemaking processes” before regulating these chemicals.

We should be glad that EPA has to take time to consider the science because their actions may do more harm than good if they act too quickly.

In fact, there isn’t a compelling body of evidence that trace-level consumer exposures to these flame retardants have caused any health problems, whereas there is plenty evidence that they reduce dangerous fire risks.

A study by the American Council and Health shows that the hype about flame retardant risks could actually imperil public health. Author William P. Kucewicz explains:
    Life-saving flame-retardant chemicals are under assault. Ignoring the vitally important role these compounds play in preventing or slowing fires, environmental activists advocate banning certain flame retardants on the grounds that biomonitoring studies have found trace amounts of the chemicals in humans, including in breast milk. They hope to get various governmental authorities in the U.S. and overseas to impose strict prohibitions on these flame-retardant chemicals.

    At issue is a class of brominated flame retardants known as polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDEs). Within this group, three commercial mixtures of PBDEs are: penta-, octa-, and decaBDE. Each product is a mixture of diphenyl ethers with varying degrees of bromination. These particular PBDEs have widely and frequently been used as flame retardants in furniture foam (pentaBDE); plastics for TV cabinets, consumer electronics, wire insulation, and backcoatings for draperies and upholstery (decaBDE); and plastics for personal computers and small appliances (octaBDE). The chemicals increase valuable escape time in cases of fire by slowing both ignition and the rate of fire growth. (USEPA 2005a)

    Efforts to ban these chemicals are deadly serious business. In the U.S., someone dies in a fire every two hours and ten minutes, and the vast majority (85 percent) of these non-firefighter, civilian deaths occur in home fires. The fire death rate is 14.8 persons for every one million Americans. (BFRIP 2002) In view of the public debate and regulatory reviews of PBDEs, a look at some flame-retardancy facts is in order.

    Nevertheless, U.S. and European regulators have effectively banned two of the three most prominent PBDE flame retardants. An assortment of states, environmental groups, and foreign governments, moreover, is seeking to ban the third one (i.e., decaBDE) as well, even though there is no credible evidence that the chemical represents a danger to humans or the environment.

    Numerous studies, in fact, have concluded that our exposure to the compound is minimal and does not pose an adverse health risk for people at expected exposures. Current evidence shows that the benefits of PBDE flame retardants, in terms of lives saved and injuries prevented, far outweigh any demonstrated or likely negative health effects from their use.


Cheese 'beats diabetes': Just two slices a day could reduce risk of developing the disease, study claims

The effect observed was a tiny one -- too small to guide anything

If you are trying to slim down, you may have crossed cheese off the menu.  But scientists have discovered it may actually help prevent diabetes – an illness often triggered by being overweight.

They claim that eating just two slices of cheese a day cuts the risk of type 2 diabetes by 12 per cent.  Researchers hypothesised that fermentation of cheese could trigger a reaction that protects against diabetes

The findings go against current health guidelines, which advise cutting back on dairy products and other high-fat foods to help prevent the illness.

British and Dutch researchers looked at the diets of 16,800 healthy adults and 12,400 patients with type 2 diabetes from eight European countries, including the UK.  The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that those who ate at least 55g of cheese a day – around two slices – were 12 per cent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes. The risk fell by the same amount for those who ate 55g of yoghurt a day.

For years NHS guidelines have advised against eating too much dairy, cake or red meat as they are high in saturated fat. This is thought to increase cholesterol and raise the risk of diabetes.

But the researchers – including academics from the Medical Research Council, Cambridge – say not all saturated fats are as harmful as others, and some may even be beneficial.  One theory is that the so-called ‘probiotic’ bacteria in cheese and yoghurt lower cholesterol and produce certain vitamins which prevent diabetes.

And cheese, milk and yoghurt are also high in vitamin D, calcium and magnesium, which may help protect against the condition.

Diabetes occurs when the body does not produce enough of the hormone insulin to control its blood sugar levels. Symptoms of type 2 diabetes include feeling very thirsty, needing to pass water frequently and constant tiredness.

Although the illness is treatable through methods such as dietary changes, tablets and injections, it can cause serious complications if not properly looked after.

But despite the latest findings, campaigners warned against  gorging on cheese and other dairy products in the hope of warding  off diabetes.  Dr Iain Frame, director of research at the charity Diabetes UK, said: ‘It is too simplistic to concentrate on individual foods.  ‘We recommend a healthy balanced diet, rich in fruit and vegetables and low in salt and fat.

‘This study gives us no reason to believe that people should change their dairy intake in an attempt to avoid the condition.’


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Why growing up in a loving home boosts children's brains and makes them more intelligent

In general,  the sequence is likely to be that  smart kids tend to have loving parents.  High IQ people tend to have a lot of life's pluses and better childcare would be one of them.  And smart parents tend to have smart kids.  The IQ is a cause, not a result

In the case of severe deprivation, as we see below, however, the stimulation of a good home could make a difference

A loving family helps a child's brain to grow and increases their intelligence and mental abilities, a study suggests.

Researchers found that children in care have less grey and white matter - the two components of the central nervous system - than those brought up in a typical home environment.

Children in foster families have normal levels of white matter, which relays messages in the brain, but less of the grey matter which contains nerve cells and controls muscles, memory, emotions and speech.

Scientists believe the findings could explain why children who spend time in care are statistically more likely to develop issues such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and mental health problems.

People who have been in care also have, on average, lower IQ and language skills than those who grew up in loving homes.

The differences in levels of grey and white matter is most likely to be due to varying levels of stimulation required for normal brain development, researchers said.

Many children in care have been exposed to deprivation and neglect, which could be linked to their lower levels of grey and white matter.

The improvement among those who were moved to foster families, however, indicates that it is possible to recover in terms of white matter, which affects learning ability.

The study team, led by researchers from Harvard University and Boston Children's Hospital, examined MRI scans from Romanian orphans aged between eight and 11, some of whom had been transferred to quality foster care homes.

It has published almost 50 research papers since the project began.

Reporting their latest findings in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the reesearchers wrote: 'In most forms of institutional rearing, the ratio of caregivers to children is low, care is highly regimented and caregiver investment in children is low.

'One of the most likely explanations for the wide range of developmental problems observed among children exposed to institutional rearing is that the deprived environment of an institution does not provide adequate experience on which to scaffold normal brain development.'

One of the study's authors, Dr Charles Nelson, a developmental neuroscientist in Boston, said the findings suggested that there was a sensitive period in the first two years of a child's life, when foster care has the greatest impact on their progress.

'The younger a child is when placed in foster care, the better,' he added.


Aspirin 'can reduce the risk of throat cancer' by targeting cells known to be high risk factor

There have been widespread findings of cancer prevention via aspirin so this may be a goer.  Anybody using aspirin daily should however get themselves checked for helicobacter pylori -- as aspirin  interacts with helicobacter pylori  to cause stomach irritation

Aspirin can reduce the risk of throat cancer, according to a new study.

Aspirin is already known to help stave off a host of diseases, including arthritis, heart disease and strokes, and now researchers say it can reduce the risk of oesophageal cancer.

Last year, 7,610 people in the UK died from oesophageal cancer and in 2009, 8,161 people were diagnosed with the incurable disease.

But researchers say taking aspirin can reduce the risk of Barrett’s esophagus (BE), a condition which affects the cells in the throat and which is the largest known risk factor for oesophageal cancer.

The incidence of oesophageal cancer has been increasing at an alarming rate, with current attempts at targeted screening focusing on identifying BE.

Previous studies have found nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), particularly aspirin, have been associated with lower death rates for oesophageal cancer.

Although research has analysed NSAID and aspirin chemoprevention for oesophageal cancer or BE progression, few have explored whether the drugs can prevent BE.

Researchers analysed characteristics of 434 patients for factors that might be used in screening and management, discovering those taking aspirin were 44 per cent less likely to have BE.

Results in the Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology study also showed men were more than three times more likely to develop the condition than women.

The researchers warn people should not start taking high doses of aspirin to prevent throat cancer, but say further research is being done to see if aspirin should be a considered treatment.

Dr Chin Hur, of the the Massachusetts General Hospital Institute for Technology Assessment, said: 'The protective effect of aspirin use appears robust because the analyses suggests a dose-response relationship in which high-dose aspirin was significantly associated with decreased Barrett’s esophagus risk.

'It would not be advisable at this time for patients to start taking aspirin, particularly at higher doses, if preventing Barrett’s esophagus is the only goal.

'However, if additional data confirms our findings and an individual at high risk for development of Barrett’s esophagus and oesophageal cancer also could derive additional benefits, most notably cardiovascular, aspirin could be a consideration.'


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Fructose is good for you

This will send the fanatically anti-fructose Robert Lustig into a spin

A new study by researchers at St. Michael's Hospital suggests that fructose may not be as bad for us as previously thought and that it may even provide some benefit.

"Over the last decade, there have been connections made between fructose intake and rates of obesity," said Dr. John Sievenpiper, a senior author of the study. "However, this research suggests that the problem is likely one of overconsumption, not fructose."

The study reviewed 18 trials with 209 participants who had Type 1 and 2 diabetes and found fructose significantly improved their blood sugar control. The improvement was equivalent to what can be achieved with an oral antidiabetic drug.

Even more promising, Dr. Sievenpiper said, is that the researchers saw benefit even without adverse effects on body weight, blood pressure, uric acid (gout) or cholesterol.

Fructose, which is naturally found in fruit, vegetables and honey, is a simple sugar that together with glucose forms sucrose, the basis of table sugar. It is also found in high-fructose corn syrup, the most common sweetener in commercially prepared foods.

In all the trials they reviewed, participants were fed diets where fructose was incorporated or sprinkled on to test foods such as cereals or coffee. The diets with fructose had the same amount of calories as the ones without.

"Attention needs to go back where it belongs, which is on the concept of moderation," said Adrian Cozma, the lead author of the paper and a research assistant with Dr. Sievenpiper.

"We're seeing that there may be benefit if fructose wasn't being consumed in such large amounts," Cozma said. "All negative attention on fructose-related harm draws further away from the issue of eating too many calories."


Traffic light labelling on foods 'could help cut stomach cancers linked to salt'

WCRF are just publicity-hungry panic mongers.  They offer no proof of their assertion.  But note that one of the world's most long-lived populations -- the Japanese --  consume huge amounts of salt.  So even if salt does cause stomach cancer it may have protective effects elsewhere

Food labelling must be improved to cut the number of stomach cancers linked to salt, experts have warned.  One in seven cases of stomach cancer in the UK could be avoided by reducing salt intake to recommended levels, research suggests.

Too much salt can promote cancer by damaging the stomach lining, and Britons consume an average of 8.6 grams each a day - 43 per cent higher than the maximum recommended amount.

The World Cancer Research Fund is calling for a standardised form of colour-coded 'traffic light' labelling on foods, which it says would help consumers to better control the amount of salt, sugar and fat they take.

The charity is recommending green labels for foods low in salt (less than 0.3g per 100g), amber for medium content (between 0.3g and 1.5g per 100g), and red for high salt levels (more than 1.5g per 100g).

Kate Mendoza, head of information at the charity, said: 'Stomach cancer is difficult to treat successfully because most cases are not caught until the disease is well established.

'This places even greater emphasis on making lifestyle choices to prevent the disease occurring in the first place - such as cutting down on salt intake and eating more fruit and vegetables.'

Ms Mendoza added: 'Because around three-quarters of the salt we consume is already in processed food when we buy it, WCRF would like to see traffic light labelling on the front of food and drink packaging to give clear guidance on the levels of salt as well as sugar, fat and saturated fat.

'Standardised labelling among retailers and manufacturers - rather than the different voluntary systems currently in place - would help consumers make better informed and healthy choices.'

Each year in the UK around 7,500 new cases of stomach cancer are diagnosed and almost 5,000 people die from the disease.  Cutting salt intake to six grams a day could prevent 1,050 of these cases, according to the WCRF.

Excess salt is also linked to high blood pressure, the main cause of strokes and a significant cause of heart disease, as well as osteoporosis and kidney disease.

A Department of Health spokesman said: 'We already know too much salt can lead to conditions such as heart disease and stroke. 'That is why we are taking action through the Responsibility Deal to help reduce the salt in peoples' diets.

'And we are looking at clearer salt labelling on foods as part of our consultation on front of pack labelling.  'We keep these findings under review alongside other emerging research in the field.'


Monday, July 23, 2012

Don’t buy into Britain's supermarket spying

Lib-Con plans to ‘nudge’ us into making healthier shopping decisions exposes how anti-democratic nudge theory is

Not content with already nannying and nudging us in various ways, and using sin taxes to regulate our consumption habits, Britain’s Lib-Con coalition government is now pursuing another policy of paternalism. It is aiming to gain access to the shopping habits of 25million people through the information saved on their supermarket loyalty cards, such as the Sainsbury’s Nectar card or Tesco Club Cards. That way, it can work out where we’re going ‘wrong’ in terms of what we buy and eat, and nudge us in the ‘right’ direction.

Supermarkets keep a complete record of all our purchases if we use a club card. But that information was traditionally only used to aim store promotions at customers, based on their previous purchasing habits. Now, prime minister David Cameron says he backs the idea that such information should be used to try to nudge people towards making better, healthier choices. Other senior Tories, however, including health secretary Andrew Lansley, are worried that this all adds up to government snooping.

By getting a glimpse into what people buy from the supermarket, right down to the last rasher of bacon and can of Carlsberg, the government hopes to devise ways to make our weekly shop healthier. People will be targeted with specific health advice. So presumably, those who purchase a case of Stella [beer] on a Friday evening will be subtly alerted to the dangers of alcohol and kindly asked to refrain from drinking too much, while those who regularly purchase white bread will be asked to consider the wholemeal option. Parents might also be chastised if their supermarket shop suggests they aren’t providing their children with a ‘balanced diet’.

An O-word, named after a certain Eric Arthur Blair, comes to mind. The idea of a government agency poring over the public’s shopping habits, and then suggesting healthier options, is a strange and paternalistic one. It assumes the public are too stupid to decide for themselves what to buy and eat. In the government’s eyes, the only reason someone’s Tesco Club Card might show up a lot of beer-buying is because that person is oblivious to the health implications of drinking, and therefore needs a friendly ‘nudge’ in the right direction. It couldn’t possibly be that, despite knowing about the relationship between alcohol and health, he has decided to get pissed nonetheless.

It should come as no surprise that this latest attempt to change people’s choices comes from the Cabinet Office’s Behavioural Insight Team (BIT). BIT, commonly known as the Nudge Unit, was set up two years ago to utilise behavioural economics theory to ‘nudge’ people into making what are considered to be the correct lifestyle choices. The Nudge Unit’s purpose is to find ways to ‘encourage, support and enable people to make better choices for themselves’ – though what qualifies these policy wonks to know what the ‘better choices’ are is unclear.

The Nudge Unit believes that small nudges and external stimuli can encourage people to become healthier. This means it hopes to change the way we perceive and see the world around us, and how we interact with it, too. To the Nudge Unit, the public are a bit like Pavlov’s dogs – ring a bell, provide some new stimulation to the brain, and everyone will unconsciously start salivating at the mouth to make new and improved eating, drinking and lifestyle choices.

The central idea is that people can’t be trusted to make decisions on their own, and so the government must get stuck into our day-to-day lives. But if the average person can’t be trusted to know what the right choice is, why is the Behavioural Insight Team any different? How is it that these people know what the right choices are? Perhaps they view themselves as an enlightened elite who must lord it over the feeble-minded masses, gently nudging us in the right direction, like shepherds herding the sheeple to the land of correct thinking.

This elite mindset is antithetical to democracy. The idea of democracy is that people are able to decide for themselves how to live their lives and also what the future of their society should look like. That is, democracy is, or should be, based on the idea that people know what is in their own best interests. And so we have the right to elect people who we believe will shape society as we would like it to be shaped. The ideas of the Nudge Unit negate this basic principle of democracy; in fact, they call into question the very idea of democracy, which can’t really exist if people are seen as incapable of making good decisions even in the supermarket aisles, never mind the voting booth.

The idea that the government knows what is best for us redefines the democratic relationship, the relationship between free citizens and those who govern. Rather than being viewed as active and conscious agents who should get to say what society should look like, we are turned into a mass to be manipulated by officials who believe they know best what we should look like. Elected politicians are turned from representatives of the demos into shepherds overlooking their fickle flock.


Being overweight does not increase risk of death

An evaluation of national data by UC Davis researchers has found that extra weight is not necessarily linked with a higher risk of death.

When compared to those with normal weight, people who were overweight or obese had no increased risk of death during a follow-up period of six years. People who were severely obese did have a higher risk, but only if they also had diabetes or hypertension.

The findings, which appear in the July-August issue of The Journal of American Board of Family Medicine, call into question previous studies -- using data collected when obesity was less common -- linking higher short-term mortality with any amount of extra weight.

"There is currently a widespread belief that any degree of overweight or obesity increases the risk of death, however our findings suggest this may not be the case," said Anthony Jerant, professor of family and community medicine and lead author of the study. "In the six-year timeframe of our evaluation, we found that only severe obesity was associated with an increased risk of death, due to co-occurring diabetes and hypertension."

Based on the study, Jerant recommends that doctors' conversations with patients who are overweight or obese, but not severely obese, focus on the known negative effects of these conditions on mental and physical functioning, rather than on an increased short-term risk of death.

By contrast, Jerant added that it is important for doctors to talk with severely obese patients who also have diabetes or hypertension about their increased short-term mortality risk and treatment, including weight loss.

"Our results do not mean that being overweight or obese is not a threat to individual or public health," said Jerant. "These conditions can have a significant impact on quality of life, and for this reason alone weight loss may be advisable."

In conducting the study, Jerant used nationwide data from 2000 to 2005 of nearly 51,000 adults aged 18 to 90 years who participated in the Medical Expenditure Panel Surveys on health-care utilization and costs. The surveys include information on health conditions such as diabetes and hypertension.

Body mass index (BMI), or weight adjusted for height, was calculated for each respondent. The study categorized people as underweight (BMI < 20), normal weight (BMI 20 to < 25), overweight (BMI 25 to < 30), obese (BMI 30 to 35) or severely obese (BMI > 35).

Mortality was assessed using the National Death Index. Of the 50,994 people included in the UC Davis analysis, just over 3 percent (1,683) died during the six years of follow-up.

The investigators found that severely obese people were 1.26 times more likely to die during follow-up than people in the normal weight group. However, if people with diabetes or hypertension were eliminated from the data, those who were overweight, obese or even severely obese had similar or even lower death rates than people of normal weight. Consistent with a number of prior studies, underweight people were nearly twice as likely to die than people with normal weight, regardless of whether diabetes or hypertension was present.

The prevalence of overweight and obesity has increased dramatically in recent decades. An estimated one-third of all U.S. adults over age 20 are obese and another one-third are overweight. In addition to diabetes and hypertension, health problems associated with these conditions include heart disease, osteoarthritis and sleep apnea.

The relationship between weight and mortality is a controversial topic in public health. Although studies based on data collected 30 years ago showed that mortality risk rose as weight increased, analyses of more recently collected data, including the current one, call this assumption into question.

"Our findings indicate that the risk of having an above-normal BMI may be lower than in the past," said Jerant. "While this study cannot explain the reasons, it is possible that as overweight and obesity have become more common, physicians have become more aware of associated health issues like high blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar, and are more aggressive about early detection and treatment of these conditions."

Jerant said that the six-year period of his investigation limits the ability to make assumptions about the link between unhealthy weight and the risk of death over a longer timeframe.

"We hope our findings will trigger studies that re-examine the relationship of being overweight or obese with long-term mortality," said Jerant.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Drinking alcohol? That’s not normal!

Attempts by anti-drinking killjoys to ‘denormalise’ an everyday activity are getting ever more patronising

Yet more health recommendations have been issued by the self-appointed guardians of ‘public health’, this time in an attempt to stave off Britain’s supposedly toxic drinking culture. The new proposals hope to change people’s attitudes by ‘denormalising’ alcohol consumption, but they really just end up treating adults like children.

The killjoys at the UK Faculty of Public Health are suggesting that the government compels alcohol producers to label their products with ‘graphic’ warnings of the dangers linked to alcohol, such as cancer and violence. Meanwhile, NHS Cumbria has put forward proposals to force retailers to create separate tills for the sale of alcohol.

These proposals are a clear attempt to denormalise the widely enjoyed consumption of alcohol by ostracising drinkers. Through the segregation of alcohol from food, great irritation will be caused to the public, as well as making alcohol some kind of unique and separate product. This replicates the practice of forcing supermarkets to sell tobacco at a specific till. It is an attempt to stop alcohol being seen as a usual component of people’s general consumption habits, with the implication that drinking is a dirty habit.

The message would be: ‘Go queue for your booze over there, drunkard, this queue’s for us decent folk buying Vitamin Water and fruit.’ No longer would people be able to select which bottle of red wine to purchase alongside their other food stuffs, or pick up some Cobra beers for the curry they’re also buying, or include a case of Budweiser when planning a barbecue. Unless, of course, they wish to queue up twice. The implication is palpable: such drinking habits aren’t normal.

Including a graphic warning on alcohol bottles and cans is another means to denormalise alcohol, especially the warnings about alcohol causing violence. It is true that some people can get a bit aggressive after a drink, but the vast majority don’t. The attempt to label bottles of beer in such a way is to portray people that drink as prone to throwing their fists around. Thankfully, most people do like a drink and usually refrain from punch-ups, so the proposed demonisation campaign will be seen for the nonsense it is.

These proposals, and the anti-drinking campaign in general, take a rather dismal view of the public. By trying to separate alcohol purchases from food and soft drinks, supporters claim they are trying to stop drinkers ‘buying it on impulse’ and succumbing to temptation. This is a patronising view of people as impulsive children who are likely to see a bottle of wine and want it without thinking. It suggests consumers are as blissfully ignorant as Adam in the Garden of Eden, destined to be led astray by the snake-like ease of purchasing the forbidden fruit of alcohol. Luckily, the modern-day temperance movement, in the form of ‘public health’, will help him resist these temptations.

The plan to label alcohol bottles with health warnings also suggests that people don’t already know the potential risks associated with drinking. It’s common to hear people, after a few nights of heavy drinking, make references to their liver taking a hit, or that it ‘needs to recover’. Although people may not know the exact science behind alcohol and liver disease, they know that alcohol can cause you liver problems, but they just chose to drink anyway. Yet the guardians of public health can’t seem to grasp this basic fact that people know alcohol can cause health issues; they would rather take away the risks and enjoy themselves.

Through the guise of public health, these attempts at changing people’s alcohol consumption habits are an invasion of the private sphere. The consumption, or level of consumption, of a legal product should be no business of the state. People should be trusted to decide for themselves how much alcohol to consume. State legislation, outside of outright prohibition, cannot change people’s drinking habits, nor should it attempt to. The ‘correct’ amount for each person to drink is specific to each person. An impersonal army of bureaucrats can’t gauge how much is too much for every individual. If someone actually is drinking excessively, family and friends are best suited to identify this – and it’s a lot easier for them to help, too. Someone drinking themselves to death is more likely to listen to the appeals of those close to them, rather than some faceless public-health group or a hectoring health minister.

It is not surprising that the means by which the fun-free anti-drinking campaigners attempt to achieve their goals is patronising and treats people like children. That’s because the end to which they strive toward is equally patronising. Attempting to regulate people’s alcohol consumption is to treat adults like children. The government and the anti-drink campaigners view themselves in the same way as a parent, with the adult population being the not-quite-knowledgeable-enough teenager who needs decisions on their alcohol intake imposed by the wiser state-approved authority figure. Thanks, but we’re quite capable of making those judgements for ourselves.


Junk food companies and lack of playgrounds behind obesity crisis, Australian academic says

There is no such thing as "junk" food.  A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potato.  If that is bad we are all in the poo.  And the best evidence is that demand levels of fat, salt and sugar are harmless.  Too little salt can in fact kill you (Google hyponatremia if you doubt it)

FAT people are not to blame for being overweight, a top Melbourne academic claims.

Dr Samantha Thomas, who spoke at the annual Castan Centre for Human Rights Law Conference in Melbourne, said the war on obesity was failing because society put too much emphasis on personal responsibility.

"Obesity rates are still increasing because we put all the responsibility on the individual, but are completely reluctant to tackle the corporations that are part of the cause - the junk food companies, the soft drink companies, even the town planners who design new suburbs with no backyards or playgrounds," Dr Thomas said.

Dr Thomas, a senior research fellow at the Monash University School of Marketing, said more should be done to prevent obesity, rather than simply telling people to lose weight.

"It is easy to say 'I do the right thing, why don't they?', but for some people, for a variety of reasons, it is very hard to make the right decisions. We really need to create a healthy environment to help people do that," she said.

Dr Thomas said the anti-obesity fight should be similar to the war on smoking, with big tobacco companies blamed rather than individuals labelled weak or lazy.

"With the anti-smoking movement, we realised that tobacco was being heavily marketed at adolescents and we were disgusted," she said. "Junk food is heavily marketed at children and adolescents but, instead of trying to stop that, we just put all the responsibility on parents."

Dr Thomas said more than 60 per cent of the population was overweight or obese, so the situation affected more people than many would admit.

But YMCA Victoria spokesman Stephen Bendle said while environment did play a role in health, people needed to learn to make the right choices themselves.

"The YMCA encourages people to take responsibility for their weight and, just as importantly, for their overall health and wellbeing," Mr Bendle said.


Friday, July 20, 2012

Eating oily fish regularly ‘can significantly cut risk of prostate death’

This only shows that people who SAY they eat a lot of fish do better.  It is a long way from a double blind trial.  And it's a data dredging finding anyway.  Of the many dietary factors examined, one could show up as significant by chance alone

A diet rich in oily fish can significantly improve prostate cancer victims’ chances of surviving the disease, research shows.

The findings in the American Journal of Epidemiology revealed sufferers who regularly ate the highest amounts of omega-3 fish oil were between 34 and 40 per cent less likely to die from the disease, which kills 10,000 men every year in the UK.

The long-term study at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston also found the patients who consumed the highest amounts of saturated fats were twice as likely to die from their tumour as those who ate smaller amounts.

The US scientists tracked 525 men who had an average age of 70 and signed up to the study in 1989.  By last year, 222 had died from prostate  cancer and 268 from other causes.

To see exactly how different types of fat affect survival, scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, USA, tracked 525 men from Orebro County in Sweden who had signed up to a long-term study back in 1989 after being diagnosed with prostate cancer.

At the time, the men, who had an average age of 70, were quizzed on their dietary habits, including consumption of different types of fats.  For the next 20 years, all the men were followed up to monitor survival rates.

The results showed that, by March 2011, 222 of the men had died from prostate cancer and 268 from other causes.  When the researchers compared the causes of death with dietary habits they found the men who regularly ate fish with high oil content were between 34 and 40 per cent less likely to have died from their prostate cancer.

In a report on their findings the researchers said diet appears to have a powerful effect on tumours that are in the early stages of development.  ‘Fish consumption may have a modest protective effect on prostate cancer risk and progression, as well as disease-specific mortality.

‘These results suggest early stage tumours may be more responsive to dietary factors and that diet may influence prognosis following a diagnosis of early stage prostate cancer.’

Last year’s study, carried out at the University of California at Los Angeles, found fish oil reduced the number of rapidly dividing cells in the prostate cancer tissue, potentially reducing the chances of the disease spreading to other parts of the body.


Tea acts as antidote for deadly  poisons, including  ricin

This appears to be a study in laboratory glassware only.  It may not work in practice

Scientists believe a simple cup of tea could be a secret weapon to fight terrorism.  A chemical in tea can deactivate ricin - a highly-toxic ingredient in deadly terrorist attacks.

Professor Les Baillie said: ‘We already knew that tea had the ability to inhibit anthrax - as long as it is black tea with no milk.

‘Our new findings suggest that if the security services want to counter the threat of ricin, they may find the answer in their morning cup of tea.’

Since the First World War ricin has had a gruesome reputation as a bioweapon. Even a tiny amount can kill a person within two to three days after getting into the bloodstream.

And it comes from the humble castor oil bean, a powerful laxative, used medicinally for centuries, that is available in many health food shops and online.

Academics at Cardiff University’s School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences discovered the use for chemical polyphenol called Epigallocatechin gallate - a principal property of tea.

It inactivated ricin - a highly-toxic substance used in scores of attempted terrorist attacks.

Ricin is used in an arsenal of terrorist weapons, and has already been at the centre of a number of attempted terrorist attacks in the US.  It was famously used to kill Bulgarian dissident writer Georgi Markov as he waited for a bus on Waterloo Bridge in London.

Markov was injected with ricin using a poison-tipped umbrella by a suspected KGB agent.

The new discovery follows on from research done by Cardiff scientists which showed tea has an unexpected array of talents outside the morning cuppa.

A team showed chemicals in English breakfast tea - known as polyphenols - were able to kill bacillus anthracis, the organism which causes anthrax and was used in the 2001 US anthrax mail attacks.

Prof Baillie said: ‘These toxins, such as ricin, have been shown to have been used by nasty people, and nasty countries, to do nasty things.

‘With a number of overseas guests arriving in the UK for the Olympics, we think this research could encourage them to drink tea - our national drink - but also naturally encourage their resistance to potentially damaging toxins.’


Thursday, July 19, 2012

All over 50s 'should be offered polypill': Four-in-one drug could extend life by 11 years and prevent thousands of strokes and heart attacks

This is just faith-healing.  There is no demonstrated effect on lifespan or disease incidence

A four-in-one pill to slash the risk of heart disease should be made available for all over-50s, a leading doctor said yesterday.

Professor Sir Nicholas Wald claimed that if just half of those over 50 took the ‘polypill’, which contains a cholesterol-busting statin and a trio of blood pressure drugs, then almost 100,000 heart attacks and strokes would be prevented each year.

Sir Nicholas, who developed antenatal screening for Down’s syndrome and linked passive smoking with lung cancer, said the drug could be approved for use over the counter in the UK in as little as a year and cost less than £1 a day. ‘The net benefits are too large to ignore,’ he added.

The professor, of Queen Mary,  University of London, made the  recommendation after a study showed taking the tablet every day for 12 weeks gave those in their  fifties, sixties and seventies the blood pressure and cholesterol  levels of twentysomethings.

Researchers gave the polypill to 84 men and women aged between 51 and 77.   They were chosen on the basis of age alone, and not because tests showed they were at a particularly high risk of heart problems.

After taking the tablet for three months, their blood pressure fell by an average of 12 per cent and ‘bad cholesterol’ by 39 per cent, the journal PLoS ONE reports.  This gave the participants readings more usually seen in someone decades younger.

It is estimated that if everyone over 50 took the tablet, two in three heart attacks and strokes could be prevented.
graphic polypills

Sir Nicholas – a polypill patent-holder – would like the drugs to be prescribed based on age alone.

Rather than going to a GP’s surgery for a series of tests, people would speak to their pharmacist who would ask their age and what medication they are taking before giving them the drug.

Despite concerns that this would lead to many apparently healthy people taking powerful medication, he said: ‘It is specifically designed for healthy people to keep them healthy.

'It is like taking anti-malarials if  you are going to Africa – you take them in order to reduce your chance of contracting the disease.’

Dr David Wald, Sir Nicholas’s son and the study’s lead researcher, added: ‘This has the potential to have a massive impact in reducing a person’s risk of a heart attack or stroke.  'It is a pill to prevent people from becoming patients and from dying from two of the most common causes of death in the world.’

The polypill tested by the team, developed by Indian firm Cipla,  contains low doses of three blood pressure drugs: amlodipine, losartan and hydrochlorothiazide.

It also contains simvastatin, one of the most widely-used statins. Others in development around the world also include aspirin and folic acid.

Polypill advocates say it is easier to remember one tablet than several drugs to be taken at different times.

But Duncan Dymond, a consultant cardiologist at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in central London, described mass prescription based on age alone as ‘absolutely ridiculous’.

‘When you spray crops, you hope that some of the crops you hit are actually going to need dusting, and accept the fact that you are going to miss some of the crops that will need dusting – and also spray crops that are perfectly healthy. And that is what we will do with this,’ he said.

Natasha Stewart, of the British Heart Foundation, described the research as encouraging, but warned: ‘Medicines are not a substitute for living a healthy lifestyle.’


Australians eating the "wrong" foods?

I don't know what business it is of anybody but the eaters -- and the fact that Australians have one of the world's longest lifespans is not addressed

SOARING obesity rates, falling fruit and vegetable intake and a fast-food industry cashing in on an appetite for fatty foods - Australians seem to be gluttons for punishment.

A damning government report on nutrition and dietary habits said more than 60 per cent of adults and almost a quarter of children aged 2-16 are either overweight or obese.

It's leading to serious health problems such as heart disease and diabetes, costing more than $8 billion a year in health care and lost productivity.

But it's little wonder our waistlines are growing, with almost 30 per cent of the average household food budget spent on fast food and eating out.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report found the average family spent more each week on alcohol than meat, fruit and vegetables.

Even when families buy healthy food, much of it ends up in the bin -- with an average $600 worth of food thrown out annually per household.

Of an estimated total $5 billion worth of food disposed of annually, $1.1 billion was fruit and vegetables.

AIHW spokeswoman Lisa McGlynn said more than 90 per cent of adults did not eat the recommended five serves of vegetables each day -- and half did not eat enough fruit.

"The good news in all this is that we know the state we're in and we know what we can do about it," she said.

"We can all start with small changes like just having a couple of extra pieces of fruit or serves of vegetables."

Newcastle family day-carer Robinanne Lavelle said she often saw parents packing their children's lunch-boxes with processed foods, sandwiches smothered in chocolate spread and lollies.

"We're in a society where we have a lot more money than we did a few decades ago and children are often becoming the ones who choose these products," she said.

"I believe working parents who are short on time might not want the hassle while they are out at the shops so they will buy something just because the children want it."

According to the report, lower income earners, Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders were most at risk from poor diet and obesity. With healthy food costing up to 30 per cent more for people living in rural and remote regions, they too were at increased risk.

Dietitians Association of Australia spokesman Dr Trent Watson called for a fundamental change in the way authorities tackled the problem, with more funding for prevention.

"Unless we start shaping our health care system to target these determinants of health as an absolute priority, we're going to be in an unsustainable position," he said.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

How a third of gastric surgery patients put ALL the weight back on

More evidence of the futility of the war on "obesity"

Seventeen firefighters and ambulance staff were needed to carry a 40st woman from her home to an ambulance in Croydon, it was reported last week.  At one point, it was thought a window would need to be removed to get the woman out. And a firefighter later told reporters: ‘We are finding we are getting more of these calls.’

Another day in overweight Britain, where one in four adults is now officially obese. The cost to the NHS of treating diabetes — often triggered by excess weight — is a staggering £1.5 million an hour, while experts warn our children may be the first generation to die at an earlier age than their parents.

In the ten years since bariatric (weight loss) surgery was first recommended as a last resort for obesity by government watchdog NICE, the number of operations has increased tenfold.

Eight thousand procedures were carried out in England alone on the NHS last year, most of them either a gastric band — in which a silicone band is fitted around the stomach to make it smaller — or a gastric bypass, where a small pouch is created at the top of the stomach and connected to the small intestine, bypassing the rest of the stomach and bowel.

The aim is to reduce appetite and speed up feelings of fullness — to transform the patient from someone who eats too much into one who simply cannot. Results are often impressive, especially the first post-op months, as the weight falls off.

Surgery can also dramatically reduce the risk of health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.

Each operation costs the NHS £3,000 to £10,000, but a study by the Office of Health Economics in 2010 reported that it pays for itself within a year in reduced prescriptions and GP time, and benefit payments.

As obesity rates continue to rise — by 2050 it’s expected that half of all British adults will be clinically obese — many experts are keen to see more people offered surgery.

In April this year, Scottish doctors warned that unless more gastric operations are performed, the costs of treating diabetes and its complications will ‘bankrupt’ the NHS. But now evidence is emerging that this very modern approach to losing weight may not be the panacea it was hoped to be.

A worrying proportion of patients fail to keep the weight off long term, largely because although their stomachs have physically shrunk their addiction to food remains.

In fact, 63 per cent of patients put weight back on within two years of their operation, according to one Brazilian study of 782 patients. Meanwhile, a German review of studies on weight-loss surgery found 30 per cent of patients regained their lost weight between 18 and 36 months.

As a result, growing numbers of patients are requesting a second operation. In a Dutch study of patients who’d had gastric banding, a third needed the operation redone after five years and half after ten years.

‘You must realise this is not the final answer most of the time,’ lead researcher Dr Edo Aarts says.
Most hospitals in the UK now carry out gastric bypasses rather than banding, as these have been shown to be more effective long term.

‘A percentage of patients will not do well,’ says Guy Slater, a bariatric surgeon at St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester. ‘And it’s very hard to predict, because there are so many physiological and psychological variables involved.

‘That’s one of the problems with this type of surgery — and also what makes it so different from any other.’

When weight-loss surgery fails it is not only extremely distressing for the patient, but means they are still at risk of all the health problems linked with obesity, such as joint damage, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

‘They can become a burden to the NHS again, because either they have revision surgery or need procedures like knee ops because they are overweight again,’ says Jane Ogden, professor of health psychology at the University of Surrey. ‘Weight-loss surgery is cost effective but only if it works.’

Meanwhile, results for a second operation are poor, with a higher risk of complications and death, says Mr Slater, who also practises privately for Streamline Surgical, agrees. ‘I try to avoid it at all costs. I’m always much more nervous doing it the second time than the first time.’

So what’s going wrong?

Crucial to the success of bariatric surgery is that the patient is mentally prepared for the vigorous diet plan they’ll need to stick to for the rest of their lives. Their stomach will only cope with small side-dish size portions.

However, it is possible to stretch the newly reduced stomach by eating a little more each time. So experts agree patients need psychological screening before surgery, to ensure they have the willpower to resist the old temptations. And then, if necessary, they will need aftercare with dietitians and specialists to keep them on track.

‘In the first year, or two years, after the surgery, you feel like you’re walking on air. But three or four years on is a very different thing,’ says Bianca Scollen, of the support group Weight Loss Surgery Info (she herself had surgery eight years ago).

‘In a way, losing the weight is the easy part, it’s changing your lifestyle and keeping it off that’s hard.’
Some people find the sight of their new, slimmer shape is enough to keep them motivated, but for others it’s not so easy.

‘Hunger isn’t just a biological process — it can be about feeling fed up and wanting comfort, or feeling bored,’ says Professor Ogden. ‘Unless patients have changed their attitude towards food, they end up cheating — grazing, or drinking lots of water so their stomach can manage more food.’

Guy Slater agrees. ‘We get rid of the physical hunger, but some people have an emotional hunger that is less easy to get rid of,’ he says.

Under NICE guidelines, NHS patients must receive a psychological assessment before being approved for surgery, as well as regular aftercare appointments. But provision is patchy, because of waiting times for psychologists on the NHS.

‘All our patients have a psychological assessment, and we turn down around one in eight of them, because we don’t feel they’re ready for it,’ says Mr Slater. ‘But this doesn’t always happen elsewhere.

‘We try to spot the people who are going to need the psychological support after their operation and try to get their GP to put a programme in place, but it’s very difficult with funding.’ It’s also vital that patients are properly prepared for the realities of life after surgery. Most patients will be left with large folds of excess skin that’s vulnerable to infection.

Some suffer depression as a result of the dramatic transformation to their body and the effect it has on their relationships, lifestyle and sense of identity.

Another risk is ‘transfer addiction’ — where, denied food, patients develop other dependencies, such as gambling and alcohol.

The NHS will only offer the surgery to those with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 40 or above (or 35 and above if you also have a serious health condition such as type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure).

An estimated one million Britons qualify on the basis of their BMI but as a result of  growing NHS waiting lists more people are going private.

One company, BMI Healthcare, has seen a 20 per cent year-on-year increase in requests.
But private providers don’t have to provide any psychological support and, often, patients are just given the option to pay extra for it.

Some providers also don’t offer sufficient aftercare, vital to protect against weight regain and, because of the risk of complications such as infections, vomiting, gastric bands that slip or leak and intestinal blockages.

The number of negligence claims against independent bariatric surgeons doubled in the two years between 2008 and 2010, according to the Medical Defence Union, the doctors’ insurers.

Common complaints included failure to obtain consent from the patient about the risks involved.
Bariatric surgery is often seen as the easy solution to a growing problem — but it won’t work unless the patient changes their mind, as well as their body.


Diabetes drug costing just 2p could beat prostate cancer by shrinking tumours

Sounds hopeful

A diabetes drug costing as  little as 2p a tablet could offer a major breakthrough in the treatment of prostate cancer.

Research has shown that the medicine, called metformin, causes tumours to shrink by slowing the rate at which cancerous cells grow.

If the results are confirmed in bigger  trials, it raises the possibility that men could be given the cheap, readily available drug as soon as they are diagnosed.

Nearly 40,000 cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed every year in the UK and 10,000 men die from it – the equivalent of more than one an hour.

The risks of developing a tumour increase with age, and there is a strong genetic element to the disease.

Metformin is widely used on the NHS to treat patients with type 2 diabetes.

But recent studies highlighting the drug’s effects against a variety of tumours have generated considerable excitement among cancer researchers looking for  powerful new treatments.

Last year, scientists discovered  it could slash the risk of ovarian cancer by around 40 per cent.

And Cancer Research UK is currently funding a major five-year study, involving early 5,000 British women with breast cancer, to see if the drug will stop the disease returning and boost survival rates.

Other research teams around the world are investigating metformin’s powers against skin, lung and pancreatic cancer, with promising early results.

In the latest breakthrough, doctors at the Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto, Canada, tested the drug on 22 men after they noticed that it stunted prostate cancer cell growth in laboratory experiments.

All of the men had been diagnosed with tumours and were due to undergo surgery to have their prostates removed.

For six weeks before their operation, each one took 500mg of metformin three times a day, during which time researchers measured the rate at which the tumour cells multiplied.

The results, presented at the recent American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting in Chicago, showed malignant cells grew at a significantly slower rate once the men were put on the drug, suggesting metformin might be able to keep tumours under control.

The findings support a 2009 study which found that men taking metformin every day to control their diabetes were up to 44 per cent less likely to develop prostate cancer.

Dr Anthony Joshua, a cancer specialist who carried out the latest study, said: ‘We compared what the prostate cancer looked like when  it was first diagnosed to what it looked like when it was removed.

‘And although these are preliminary results, it appeared to reduce the growth rate of prostate cancer in a proportion of men.’

Metformin works by reducing the amount of glucose produced by  the liver and helping cells mop up sugar that is circulating in the bloodstream, preventing damage from excessive blood sugar levels.

At about £30 per patient per year – or just 6p to 8p a day – it could be a highly cost-effective way to tackle prostate tumours.

Eleanor Barrie, Cancer Research UK’s senior science information officer, said: ‘Larger trials will tell us more in the next few years.’


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Life's a beach: Living near the coast is healthier than living inland, researchers say

Living by the sea is generally esteemed so it is the wealthier members of any given community who will get the limited real estate available by the sea.  And the richer you are, the healthier you generally are.  So this is a wealth effect not an effect of the  sea

Not only do we like to be beside the seaside, but it seems it may actually be good for us.  Those who live near the coast tend to be healthier than those who set up home further inland, according to a study.

Scientists analysed data from the 2001 census and compared how healthy respondents said they were with how close they lived to the sea.

The researchers from the European Centre for Environment and Human Health – part of the Peninsula College of Medicine at the University of Exeter – concluded that, on average, the closer we live to the sea, the more likely we are to report good health.

The analysis also showed that the link between living near the coast and good health was strongest in the most economically deprived communities.

Study lead author Dr Ben Wheeler said: 'We know that people usually have a good time when they go to the beach, but there is strikingly little evidence of how spending time at the coast can affect health and well-being.

'By analysing data for the whole population, our research suggests that there is a positive effect, although this type of study cannot prove cause and effect.'

Researchers looked at the proportion of people who reported their health as being 'good', rather than 'fairly good' or 'not good' and then compared this with how close those respondents lived to the coastline.

They also took into account the way that age, sex and a range of social and economic factors, like education and income, vary across the country.

The results show that, on average, populations living by the sea report rates of good health more than similar populations living inland.

Previous research from the Devon-based academics had shown that the coastal environment also provided significant benefits in terms of stress reduction.

Researchers said one reason those living in coastal communities may attain better physical health could be due to the stress relief offered by spending time near the sea.

Dr Wheeler added: 'We need to carry out more sophisticated studies to try to unravel the reasons that may explain the relationship we're seeing.

'If the evidence is there, it might help to provide governments with the guidance necessary to wisely and sustainably use our valuable coasts to help improve the health of the whole UK population.'


Three glasses of wine a week could reduce chance of arthritis by half

The old merry-go-round.  Alcohol is good for you one day and bad the next.  They actually say that nobody knows the effect of heavy drinking below, which is some relief from the usual dogmatism

The next time someone offers you a glass of wine, be grateful - it could save you from the agony of arthritis.  Women who indulge in moderate drinking halve the risk of certain forms of the illness, researchers have found.

Swedish academics found that women who drank at least three medium-sized glasses of wine a week - or the equivalent in beer or spirits - were up to 52 per cent less likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis.

Around 400,000 Britons are affected by this type of arthritis and the majority are women, aged 40 to 70.  It causes pain and swelling in the hands, wrists and feet and can make everyday tasks almost impossible.

Currently doctors are unable to prevent or cure the illness and they can only offer treatment to alleviate pain.  The illness is caused by the body's own immune system - which normally fights infection - attacking the cells lining the joints.

Scientists believe that alcohol can counter this process because it lowers the body's immune response.  But they have not been able to establish whether drinking more alcohol reduces the risk even further.

In this latest study, scientist from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm studied 34,100 women aged 39 to 84.  They had all filled in surveys on how often they had drunk wine, spirits or beer over the course of a year

Those who drank at least three 150 ml glasses of wine, one pint of beer or two measures of spirits over a week were 52 per cent less at risk from rheumatoid arthritis.

Daniela Di Guiseppe, a PhD student who contributed to the research said: `The results of this study indicate that moderate consumption of alcohol may reduce the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis among women.'

`These results are in accordance with the inverse association between moderate alcohol consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease and add to the evidence that moderate alcohol consumption is not harmful and can be protective against such a chronic disease as rheumatoid arthritis.

`However, the effect of higher doses of alcohol on the risk of rheumatoid arthritis remains unknown.'

Professor Alan Silman, medical research director of Arthritis Research UK said: `Small amounts of alcohol are also known to be beneficial in reducing the risk of other conditions such as heart disease, also an inflammatory disease, so the study is also telling us something about the mechanism of inflammation.

`However, it's important to stress that the paper isn't saying that excessive amounts of alcohol are good for you.

`And it must be remembered that drinking alcohol in excess can be especially dangerous in rheumatoid arthritis patients who are taking some anti-rheumatoid drugs that may cause liver damage, and anti-inflammatory painkillers which can lead to gastro-intestinal problems, which can be exacerbated by alcohol.'

This latest study will add to the debate over whether alcohol is healthy - and if so, how much we should drink.

For years scientists have claimed that drinking small amounts every day may help prevent heart attacks and strokes.  But recently Oxford academics cast doubt on this evidence by urging the public not to drink any more than three glasses of wine a week.


Monday, July 16, 2012

Breastfeeding your baby for six months will 'keep you slim in later life'

Breastfeeding is mainly a middle class thing these days and middle class people tend to be slimmer anyway so saying that breastfeeding CAUSES slimness is very myopic

Many mothers have long believed that breastfeeding helps them to get their figure back after giving birth.  Now scientists have found  it can help them to stay slim  for decades.  They discovered that women who breastfed their babies even for a few months after the birth were less likely to be obese 30 years later.

The Oxford University researchers worked out that for every six months a woman gives her baby breast milk, she loses around 2lb - depending on her initial weight and height.

Although this may not sound much, the academics claim that it could help prevent thousands of deaths from cancer, heart problems and other illnesses related to obesity.

Doctors and midwives are growing increasingly concerned that many women are becoming obese by gaining weight during pregnancy, which they never manage to shift after the birth.

Oxford University researchers worked out that for every six months a woman gives her baby breast milk, she loses around 2lb - depending on her initial weight and height

If they go on to have several children, they will become progressively fatter with every pregnancy.

The latest study - involving more than 740,000 women - provides compelling evidence that breastfeeding could help reverse this weight gain, and then help women keep the weight off for good.

Breastfeeding uses up large amounts of energy and experts have previously calculated it burns 500 calories a day - the same as a typical gym session.

Now academics have worked out that for every six months a woman breastfeeds her baby, her body mass index - the measurement of obesity - falls by 1 per cent. An average woman who is 5ft 6ins tall and weighs 11st 1lb would have a BMI measurement of 25, which is classified as overweight.

But if her BMI was to fall by 1 per cent it would be about 24.75 - which is deemed `healthy' - and she would weigh 10st 13lb.

The lead author of the paper, Dr Kirsty Bobrow, from Oxford University, said: `We already know breastfeeding is best for babies, and this study adds to a growing body of evidence that the benefits extend to the mother as well - even 30 years after she's given birth.

`Pregnant women should be made aware of these benefits to help them make an informed choice about infant feeding.' The researchers also point out that breastfeeding may help prevent thousands of deaths related to obesity from cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

Professor Dame Valerie Beral, director of the Cancer Epidemiology Unit at Oxford University, who was also involved in the study, said: `Our research suggests that just six months of breastfeeding by UK women could reduce their risk of obesity in later life.

`A 1 per cent reduction in BMI may seem small, but spread across the population of the UK that could mean about 10,000 fewer premature deaths per decade from obesity-related conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.'

The study, published in the International Journal of Obesity, surveyed 740,600 women whose average age was 57. They had all answered questions about how many children they had and the total number of months they had spent breastfeeding.

The research also found that women were more likely to be obese if they had several children.

This backs up the concerns of health professionals that many gain weight during pregnancy which they don't lose after the birth of their babies.

According to the latest figures from the Department of Health, almost three quarters of new  mothers start their babies off on breast milk.

This is far higher than the six in ten who breastfed in the 1990s and the rise follows numerous `breast is best' campaigns.

The World Health Organisation recommends that women breastfeed their babies for at least six months but many give up because they find it uncomfortable or are worried that their babies are struggling to get enough milk.[


Poisonous advice from the "environmental working group"

by Angela Logomasini

Here we go again. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has issued its 2012 Shopping Guide to Pesticides in Produce — which is the eighth edition to unfairly demonize healthy fruits and vegetables. EWG issues these reports annually using data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that actually show the opposite of what the greens claim: pesticide residues are so minute that they pose little to no health risks to U.S. consumers.

In fact, USDA explains its findings in a May 2012 press statement: “Similar to previous years, the 2010 report shows that overall pesticide residues found on foods tested are at levels well below the tolerances set by the EPA. The report does show that residues exceeding the tolerance were detected in 0.25 percent of the samples tested. For baby food –included for the first time in this report – the data showed that no residues were found that exceeded the tolerance levels.”

In other words, this report showed that 99.75 percent of samples tested contained residues well below EPA’s “safe level.” Wow, that’s an impressive success rate! It’s a very strong indicator that U.S. consumers have nothing to fear from trace pesticides on their food.

What about the 0.25 percent that had levels above EPA standards? Consumers need not fear even those. Such slight exceedances have no public health impact because EPA standards are exceedingly stringent so that even a child could be exposed at levels thousands of times higher without ill effect.

However, by discouraging the consumption of healthy foods like apples, celery, and blueberries, EWG may contribute to increased cancer and other health risks!

For more information, see my op-ed that addressed their 2009 guide.