Sunday, September 30, 2012

Eating Cherries Lowers Risk of Gout Attacks by 35% (?)

The journal article is  "Cherry consumption and the risk of recurrent gout attacks".  It appears that the gout sufferers quizzed were aware of the hypothesis underlying the research.  The results are therefore worthless:  Just the usual "trying to please" effect at work.  And the fact that the sample was gathered online could also have biased the results.  Volunteers may have been more likely to believe in the widely-promoted magical powers of various fruits and hence have given replies in accordance  with that expectation

A new study found that patients with gout who consumed cherries over a two-day period showed a 35% lower risk of gout attacks compared to those who did not eat the fruit. Findings from this case-crossover study published in Arthritis & Rheumatism, a journal of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR), also suggest that risk of gout flares was 75% lower when cherry intake was combined with the uric-acid reducing drug, allopurinol, than in periods without exposure to cherries or treatment.

Previous research reports that 8.3 million adults in the U.S. suffer with gout, an inflammatory arthritis triggered by a crystallization of uric acid within the joints that causes excruciating pain and swelling. While there are many treatment options available, gout patients continue to be burdened by recurrent gout attacks, prompting patients and investigators to seek other preventive options such as cherries. Prior studies suggest that cherry products have urate-lowering effects and anti-inflammatory properties, and thus may have the potential to reduce gout pain. However, no study has yet to assess whether cherry consumption could lower risk of gout attacks.

For the present study, lead author Dr. Yuqing Zhang, Professor of Medicine and Public Health at Boston University and colleagues recruited 633 gout patients who were followed online for one year. Participants were asked about the date of gout onset, symptoms, medications and risk factors, including cherry and cherry extract intake in the two days prior to the gout attack. A cherry serving was one half cup or 10 to 12 cherries.

Participants had a mean age of 54 years, with 88% being white and 78% of subjects were male. Of those subjects with some form of cherry intake, 35% ate fresh cherries, 2% ingested cherry extract, and 5% consumed both fresh cherry fruit and cherry extract. Researchers documented 1,247 gout attacks during the one-year follow-up period, with 92% occurring in the joint at the base of the big toe.

"Our findings indicate that consuming cherries or cherry extract lowers the risk of gout attack," said Dr. Zhang. "The gout flare risk continued to decrease with increasing cherry consumption, up to three servings over two days." The authors found that further cherry intake did not provide any additional benefit. However, the protective effect of cherry intake persisted after taking into account patients' sex, body mass (obesity), purine intake, along with use of alcohol, diuretics and anti-gout medications.

In their editorial, also published in Arthritis & Rheumatism, Dr. Allan Gelber from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Md. and Dr. Daniel Solomon from Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard University Medical School in Boston, Mass. highlight the importance of the study by Zhang et al. as it focuses on dietary intake and risk of recurrent gout attacks. While the current findings are promising, Gelber and Solomon "would not advise that patients who suffer from gout attacks abandon standard therapies." Both the editorial and study authors concur that randomized clinical trials are necessary to confirm that consumption of cherry products could prevent gout attacks.


Mercury Policy Project Reveals New Low In Quasi Science

Last week when Mercury Policy Project (MPP) released its agenda driven ramblings in the form of a "report" on mercury in canned tuna, a number of questions were raised about this opinion piece that was neither peer-reviewed nor published. The fact that the report completely ignored the multitude of studies showing the benefits of eating tuna -and the harm that comes when people don't eat enough seafood- had some asking just what type of risk analysis MPP had done in order to put the actual risks in perspective.

Well, now we have that answer and it is, not surprisingly, a new low in quasi science. You'll remember the report's lead author Ned Groth was featured in various news outlets including the venerable Food Chemical News.  Let's take a look at what he told them:

"Additionally, there are some questions to be asked about the report.  Groth admits his organization didn't conduct a survey to find out how commonly tuna is served in schools, adding that he's heard 'anecdotal' references to the frequency of tuna served in lunches of a friend's grandson in New Jersey."

 Really? MPP is basing its current study on "`anecdotal' references to the frequency of tuna served in lunches of a friend's grandson in New Jersey"? Is that the threshold used by FDA, USDA and CDC? I wonder if Dr. Margaret Hamburg at FDA immediately consults that organization's vast library of anecdotal food safety literature authored by a friend's grandson in New Jersey before ordering a risk assessment for any number of products. I'm sure she does. It sounds like the platinum standard in science.

Just to be clear. and just so all the reporters who covered this story know. the Mercury Policy Project chose not to research the actual exposure risk associated with its findings and in fact made up its own policy recommendations based on what it's lead researcher heard about a friend's grandson in New Jersey.


Friday, September 28, 2012

Harvard hits out at valium and related drugs

Predictable:  It's popular so it must be bad.  The risk reported was small and it's just correlational rubbish anyway.  Some people with physical illness probably had trouble sleeping and needed pills because of it.  But their premature death was most likely caused by the illness, not the pills taken to cope with it.  Just the usual profound ignorance of basic statistics and logic that we find in the medical literature.  They should all read "How to lie with statistics" and revise their thinking accordingly.  It's profoundly disappointing to find Harvard involved in such intellectually disreputable "research" but given the Leftism of the place is hardly surprising.  Leftists prioritize their hatreds over the facts

The journal article is here.  If they had just reported their results without any inferences it would be reasonable enough but they actually draw policy inferences from it!

For reference, the title of the article  is "Benzodiazepine use and risk of dementia: prospective population based study".  It is also striking that they combined users of different types of benzodiazepine.  Why?  The two drugs have different classes of users and clearly should have been treated separately.  Would it be that the effects observed were so weak that they could get significance only by combining the two classes of drugs?  What a nasty mind I've got!

Sleeping pills taken by more than a million Britons significantly increase the risk of dementia, researchers warn today.  Pensioners who used benzodiazepines – which include temazepam and diazepam [Valium] – were 50 per cent more likely to succumb to the devastating illness, a Harvard University study found.

Academics believe the side effects of the drugs may be so harmful that doctors should avoid prescribing them.

Around 1.5million Britons are believed to be taking the pills at any one time and more than 10million prescriptions are handed out a year.

The researchers also estimate that up to 8 per cent of the over-65s have used them within the last few years to treat insomnia or anxiety.

But there is growing evidence that they have serious side effects and a number of studies have linked them to falls, memory problems, panic attacks and early death.

Academics from Harvard University in the US and the University of Bordeaux in France discovered that over-65s who had taken the drugs within the last 15 years were 50 per cent more likely to get dementia.

The drugs can only be obtained by a prescription. They work by changing the way messages are transmitted to the brain, which induces a calming effect.

But scientists believe that at the same time they may be interfering with chemicals in the brain known as neurotransmitters, which may be causing dementia.

Professor Tobias Kurth, who works jointly at Harvard University’s School of Public Health and the University of Bordeaux, said: ‘There is a potential that these drugs are really harmful. ‘If it is really true that these drugs are causing dementia that will be huge. But one single study does not necessarily show everything that is going on, so there is no need to panic.

‘These drugs certainly have their benefits and if you prescribe them in a way they should be prescribed they treat very well.’

The study, published today in the British Medical Journal, involved 1,063 men and women over the age of 65 for a period of 20 years in south west France. Initially none of the participants had dementia and no one was taking benzodiazepines.

The researchers followed them up after 15 years and found that 253 had developed dementia. They worked out that out of 100 not taking the drug, 3.2 would be expected to get the illness.  But among 100 patients on these drugs, 4.8 would get dementia – a significantly higher proportion. The patients had taken the pills at least once – over the course of a week or so – at some point in the previous 15 years.

The study concluded: ‘Considering the extent to which benzodiazepines are prescribed and the number of potential adverse effects, indiscriminate widespread use should be cautioned against.’

In the last 20 years the number of prescriptions for benzodiazepines has fallen by 40 per cent, largely due to concerns that patients were becoming addicted.

But they remain one of the most commonly used drugs and there are fears some patients are taking them for far too long.

A spokesman for the Alzheimer’s Society said: ‘This is the not the first time it has been suggested that these drugs could have a negative impact on cognition. With this long-term study adding to the evidence, it emphasises how important it is we properly monitor how treatments for anxiety or sleep problems are used.’


Pre-clinical trials show new drug can stop type 2 diabetes in mice

A NEW drug has stopped type 2 diabetes developing and prevented its progression in pre-clinical trials.  The results, from four animal trials, have been described as promising by the researchers who hope eventually it will become a key weapon in the obesity epidemic.

Austin Hospital Professor of Medicine Joe Proietto said type 2 diabetes was caused by too much fat in the body, which eventually led to insulin resistance.

The therapy aims to block Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor B (VEGF-B) which controls the transport and storage of fat in body tissues.  "If you block the VEGF-B signalling, you stop the fatty acids from accumulating in the tissue and type 2 diabetes developing," said CSL researcher Dr Andrew Nash, who wrote the paper.  "It's a very important breakthrough. Obesity is reaching epidemic proportions."

The drug, developed by CSL, will now progress into toxicity tests and human trials.

Dr Nash and Prof Proietto said there were no adverse outcomes in the mice, but if the drug was successful it would take up to 10 years before it became available to the public.

The research was published in the Nature journal.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Red wine 'could help you lose weight'  -- if you are a bee (!)

Generalizing from mice to people is bad enough but this is absurd

Drinking red wine could help you lose weight by suppressing your appetite and preventing you from overeating, a study suggests.   Researchers found that when bees were fed resveratrol, a compound found in red wine, they ate less food afterwards.

While bees normally gorge themselves on sugary foods when they are freely available, those which had been fed resveratrol chose to stop eating once they had taken on enough to meet their energy needs.

They also became uninterested in diluted sugar solutions, suggesting they had become less sensitive to it, the scientists reported in the Aging journal.

Previous studies have indicated that resveratrol could also combat obesity by mimicing the effects of a low-fat diet, and help prevent the onset of age-related disease.

Gro Amdam, one of the study's authors from the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, said: "Because what we eat is such an important contributor to our physical health, we looked at the bees' sensitivity to sugar and their willingness to consume it.

"Bees typically gorge on sugar and while it's the best thing for them, we know that eating too much is not necessarily a good thing."

Brenda Rascón, another of the researchers, from Arizona State University, added: "Surprisingly, the bees that received the drug decreased their food intake.

"The bees were allowed to eat as much as they pleased and were certainly not starving — they simply would not gorge on the food that we know they like.  "It's possible resveratrol may be working by some mechanism that is related to caloric restriction — a dietary regimen long-known to extend lifespan in diverse organisms."


Junk science is worse for your health than egg yolks

We all know that eggs contain a lot of fat and cholesterol. While that does not make them “bad,” most of us realize that if you eat eggs or any other food to excess you will likely suffer some negative health effects. But are egg yolks as bad as cigarettes for heart health? That’s question that’s been making headlines in recent months after the publication of a study that asserts this idea. Unfortunately, most of journalists reporting on the story did not bother to actually read the paper, which has major flaws that cast serious doubt on the conclusion — something the authors of the paper note when they call for further study into their hypothesis.

Yet the presses roll on, leading a lot of readers to question whether or not they should change their diet based on what seems like new data. Even more worrying than individuals altering their eating habits is the likelihood that politicians could use this study as justification for any number of hare-brained schemes to improve the health of Americans.

Published in the Journal of Atherosclerosis, “Egg yolk consumption and carotid plaque,” was authored by three Canadian physicians motivated by an increasing lack of regard for the role that dietary fat and cholesterol play in the development of coronary heart disease, according to the paper’s introduction. They looked at nearly 3,000 people, all of whom they found at vascular prevention clinics in Canada, and asked them about their egg consumption and cigarette smoking. Over the years, they tracked these participants and found that “egg yolk years” — that is, the number of eggs eaten per week times the number of years in the study — are correlated with increasing plaque in the carotid arteries. They found that the egg yolk year-to-plaque correlation was similar to the cigarette-plaque correlation.

There are numerous problems with this study. First, the research was based on yearly self-reporting from patients. Self-reporting is notoriously inaccurate (can you remember how many eggs you ate last year?). There is also the major issue that all of the participants were patients at vascular prevention clinics — which one can assume means they either already have vascular problems or are at high risk as a result of genetic or lifestyle risk factors. As SUNY professor and biochemist Richard David Feinman put it, “this is a limitation of many nutritional studies and, while a source of error, it is depends on how you interpret the data.” But that brings me to what I see as the biggest problem in this study: the limited data the researchers chose to examine and draw conclusions about. The researchers did not track other foods the participants ate (maybe they always ate toast and bacon with their eggs) nor did it take account of activity level or exercise.

What they found in their research is that “egg yolk years” correlated with plaque build-up in carotid arteries — in a similar fashion to cigarette smoking. Based on the authors’ premise, one would have expected cholesterol to rise with egg consumption as well. But this is not what the study’s data show. They show no relationship between egg yolk consumption and serum cholesterol. As “diet guru” Zoë Harcombe noted:
    For this study to suggest an association between egg yolks and carotid plaque (which is analogous for heart disease in effect in the article) there needs to be a plausible mechanism. Interestingly the study has ruled out cholesterol as a mechanism. Hence the conventional view that cholesterol is ‘clogging up arteries’ cannot be used because no association with cholesterol holds.

In fact, it seems that the strongest factor that correlated with plaque buildup was time. As fitness author Mark Sisson noted of the study:
    Those who ate the most eggs were the oldest – almost 70 years old on average, compared to the relatively sprightly 55 year-old egg avoiders. It’s pretty well accepted that with age comes the progression of atherosclerosis, a process that takes, well, time to occur. Plaque doesn’t just snap into existence; it develops. All else being equal, the older you get, the more plaque you’ll have.

The authors of the study didn’t talk a lot about the lack of a relationship between cholesterol and egg consumption, which is good because most of the research in the last 15 years has pointed toward other causal factors in heart disease. Where doctors once took it as gospel truth that eating fat and cholesterol caused one to be fat and have high cholesterol, researchers now believe inflammation, caused by numerous factors, is the cause of heart disease with raised cholesterol as a symptom:
    Excessive free radicals created by high blood pressure, diabetes, cigarette smoke, fatty meals, elevated insulin levels with oxidized LDL cholesterol, elevated homocysteine, and possibly some infectious agents have the capability to cause inflammation of the surface lining of the arteries called the endothelium. This either causes an actual tear of the endothelium or causes the endothelium to function abnormally. LDL cholesterol is then allowed to enter into the subendothelial space (area just under the lining of the artery) where it becomes oxidized and starts to build a plaque. The cholesterol actually comes along as a band-aid trying to repair the damage to the artery caused by inflammation. This is what creates hardening of the arteries.

It might come as a shock to a few readers that dietary cholesterol does not go straight into your arteries, just like dietary fat does not instantly get transferred to your butt. In fact, even if you consumed zero cholesterol, your body would still make it anyway and your blood cholesterol would only fall by 20-25 percent.

But like I said, the authors do not seem to mind that there is no correlation between yolk eating and blood cholesterol. They bypass the glaring lack of a proposed mechanism by which yolks increase carotid plaque, as well as glazing over the possibility that other factors in the participants’ lives could correlate with increased plaque. Instead, they come to the conclusion that reducing yolk consumption is the way to reduce the risk of heart disease. To their credit, the authors at least conclude the paper by declaring the need to test their hypothesis with “more detailed information about diet, and other possible confounders such as exercise and waist circumference,” yet they still recommend that people at risk of cardiovascular disease avoid eating egg yolks.

All this study has demonstrated is that the group of people these doctors chose to look at had an increasing amount of plaque in their arteries as they got older and maintained whatever kind of diet and lifestyle they had been living prior to the study. That hardly seems like something to write home about let alone write a news story about or change your diet because of. Yet I fully expect to see policy makers declaring the need for “fat taxes” or caps on the amount of cholesterol allowed in fast foods, wielding this study as proof.

In the end we all have different dietary needs and it should be up to each individual to determine how many egg yolks they should or should not be eating for their own desired health.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Move to Less Poor Neighborhood Boosts Physical and Mental Health

The elephant in the room here is crime.  The deeper into the ghetto you go, the worse the crime is.  And pervasive ambient crime is undoubtedly stressful  -- thus leading to the effects noted.  Interesting to see if there was any effect left after crime was factored out.  The journal article is "Neighborhood Effects on the Long-Term Well-Being of Low-Income Adults"

Moving from a high-poverty to lower-poverty neighborhood spurs long-term gains in the physical and mental health of low-income adults, as well as a substantial increase in their happiness, despite not improving economic self-sufficiency, according to a new study published in the Sept. 20 issue of Science by researchers at the University of Chicago and partners at other institutions.

Although moving into less disadvantaged neighborhoods did not raise incomes for the families that moved, these families experienced important gains in well-being in other ways. Moving from a high-poverty neighborhood to one with a poverty rate 13 percentage points lower increased the happiness of low-income adults by an amount equivalent to the gains caused by a $13,000 rise in family income.

Using data from a large-scale randomized social experiment called Moving to Opportunity, the authors found that neighborhood income segregation had a greater impact than neighborhood racial segregation in shaping the outcomes of adults in the study. "This finding is important, in part, because racial segregation has been trending down since 1970, but income segregation has gone up steadily since then," said lead author Jens Ludwig, the McCormick Foundation Professor of Social Service Administration, Law and Public Policy at UChicago and director of the University of Chicago Crime Lab. "So the problem of adverse neighborhood effects on low-income families seems to be getting worse, rather than better, over time."

Another implication of the study is that looking at the growth over time in inequality with respect to family income -- a key focus of much of the inequality discussion -- understates the growth in inequality of well-being. Focusing on income inequality ignores the negative effects on poor families from growing residential segregation by economic status. The researchers estimate that the drop in happiness of low-income adults due to growing residential income segregation since 1970 is large enough to offset the full income growth for low-income Americans over the past four decades.

"Focusing just on trends in income inequality over time in the U.S., while ignoring the growth of income segregation over time, understates the trends towards greater inequality in well-being in America," Ludwig said.

The new paper, "Neighborhood Effects on the Long-Term Well-Being of Low-Income Adults," was co-authored by a national team of collaborators in addition to Ludwig. It relied on data from 4,604 low-income families that enrolled in Moving to Opportunity, an experiment that used a random lottery to offer some families initially living in distressed public housing projects the chance to move into lower-poverty areas. The Science paper looks at outcomes among adults 10 to 15 years after they moved.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development operated Moving to Opportunity from 1994 to 1998 in five cities: Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York. Families volunteered for the study, and some were picked at random to receive housing voucher subsidies to move to lower-poverty communities. Other families were randomly assigned to a control group that received no special assistance under the program.

People in the study were extremely disadvantaged economically. Most households were headed by African American or Hispanic females -- fewer than 40 percent of whom had completed high school. Their primary reason for participating was to get away from gangs and drug activity and find better apartments and better schools for their children.

A previous paper found that MTO participants who moved had fewer problems with extreme obesity and long-term risks. The study in Science showed that neighborhood environments have much broader effects on well-being for low-income families and implicate neighborhood income segregation as the key feature of distressed urban neighborhoods that seems to matter most for well-being.

"These findings suggest the importance of focusing on efforts to improve the well-being of poor families, rather than just the narrower goal of reducing income poverty, and the potential value of community-level interventions for achieving that end," Ludwig said.


Complaints Mount Against Michelle Obama’s New Lunch Menu

 In Wisconsin, high school athletes are complaining about not getting enough to eat each day, due to the skimpy new school lunch menu mandated by the United States Department of Agriculture and First Lady Michelle Obama.

The story we published earlier this week on that subject is unfortunately not unique. Students across the country are complaining about the new school lunch regulations.

Perhaps the real motive is to starve students into slimming down. Just ask students in Pierre, South Dakota who, too, are in an all-out revolt.

"I know a lot of my friends who are just drinking a jug of milk for their lunch. And they are not getting a proper meal," middle school student Samantha Gortmaker told

Despite the fact that the new regulations have increased the cost of a lunch 20 to 25 cents per plate, it’s not pleasing students.

Some are throwing away their vegetables while others are adapting to the rules by becoming industrious. In New Bedford, Massachusetts, students have created a black market - for chocolate syrup. The kiddie capitalists are smuggling in bottles of it and selling it by the squeeze, according to

Nancy Carvalho, director of food services for New Bedford Public Schools, was quoted as saying that hummus and black bean salads have been tough sells in elementary cafeterias. That means even smaller children are going through the day fighting hunger pains, which can never be considered a good thing.

One government official tried to put the blame on the students.

"One thing I think we need to keep in mind as kids say they're still hungry is that many children aren't used to eating fruits and vegetables at home, much less at school. So it's a change in what they are eating. If they are still hungry, it's that they are not eating all the food that's being offered," USDA Deputy Undersecretary Janey Thornton was quoted as saying.

Ms. Thornton just put her finger on the problem. The government is trying to impose a new diet that children are not accustomed to. It’s not reasonable to expect them to either eat what the government deems healthy or go hungry.

Many will opt to go hungry, and that’s the government’s fault.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Some obesity propaganda from NPR

The slip-sliding around the facts starts with the first sentence.  They give no reference for the "one in three"  assertion -- and it is obviously an assertion that depends heavily on the definitions used -- so a reference should be given. 

Even if we accept the figure however, lumping together the overweight and the obese is fraudulent.  Overweight people are in fact the longest-lived category! Only the grossly obese have  slightly reduced average lifespans.  So the article goes on to discuss the undoubted problems of the grossly obese after giving the impression that they are discussing one third of the population  -- which they are not.

And why is it the responsibility of the school anyway?  Schools have enough problems teaching the kids just to read and write

One in three children in the United States is overweight or obese. Significant numbers of those young people are grappling with health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Those conditions can be difficult for children to manage in any setting, but they can pose particular challenges for children during the school day.

Dr. Yolandra Hancock used to be an elementary school teacher, and it shows. She's patient, encouraging and has an endearing way of ending her sentences with "my love" and "my sweet."

Her patients include a 13-year-old who weighs 400 pounds; a child whose teeth are so rotted she can't bite into carrots; and many preteens who are diabetic. Today, Hancock is examining Derek Lyles, 13. He's 4 feet 11 inches and weighs 256 pounds.

"When we look at his body mass index, which is how well his weight and height balance out, his BMI today is 46.7," Hancock says. "For an adult male, we like to see a BMI of 30 or less."

Hancock is also troubled by dark patches of skin around Derek's neck.

"When little ones, especially around the back of the neck, have that sort of thick, almost velvety appearance to their neck, it means that their bodies are becoming less sensitive to insulin," she says.

Back-to-school checkups for patients like Derek mean lots of follow-up work for Hancock. Their belly fat pushes down on their bladders, so she'll have to write notes to principals, asking that her patients be allowed to go to the bathroom frequently. She must also draft requests to excuse children whose sleep apnea makes them appear drowsy in class, or whose joints hurt as they walk between classes.

Practical Challenges, For Kids And Schools

These accommodations also mean more work for schools, says Camille Wheeler, a nurse at Bell Multicultural High School in Washington, D.C.  "It's a lot. It really is," Wheeler says. "It takes a lot for the student, for the nurse, the parent and the school. Especially the school. Because the majority of the time the students are here, you know?"

Wheeler says it's not unusual for a child to arrive at school at 8 a.m. and depart at 6 p.m., depending on a family's aftercare arrangements.  "That's a large chunk of their time," she says.

On a recent afternoon, Wheeler is thumbing through stacks of paper, racing to process students' health information. "I have a whole stack here of many, many health certificates, dental forms, health records," she says. "It's about well over 200 forms in here, and I'm getting them daily."

Many of the forms are related to obesity. Children with diabetes need midmorning snacks. Some are on special diets and some need medication. All this means time away from the classroom.

"It may not be in the forefront, like a broken bone for example, but it's there and it affects the students every day," says Shirley Schantz, nursing education director for the National Association of School Nurses.

Schantz says that nurses from across the country are increasingly calling her organization, asking for guidance on how to deal with childhood obesity in schools — even preschools.

"They see students that can't walk upstairs," she says. "They see students that are absent because they're overweight or obese, [who] don't want to go to physical education."

The physical aspects of living with obesity can be difficult enough for a child. But there's an emotional toll, as well. Bullying is a common problem for obese kids. Derek says other students often called him fat in middle school.

Taking A Toll On Learning

All these challenges can also affect learning. Dr. Hancock says there is evidence that children who are obese score less well on standardized tests and basic classroom tests.

"Some researchers believe that there may be something physiologically that's affecting the child's ability to learn," Bell says. "Others believe, because of self-esteem issues and bullying, it makes them less eager to attend school and participate in school activities."

Derek wants to lose weight so he can "walk fast like other kids." And he really wants to start playing football again this year.

"During training camp, I couldn't do most of the, like, exercise that other people was doing," Derek says. "I just couldn't do it."

For many obese children, even maintaining their weight when they're not in school is challenging. This summer, Derek could eat whenever he wanted, and the fridge was always stocked with food. At school, he says, he ate cereal or a muffin for breakfast. But over the summer, he often ate sausage and eggs. The pounds piled on.

Hancock hopes eating meals at school will help Derek get his weight under control. She embraces Derek as she says goodbye.

"All right, handsome, give me some hugs," Hancock says, embracing Derek. "I have faith you'll be able to make changes, because you've done this before."

As Hancock reminds her young patient, it's a brand new school year — an opportunity to start fresh.


Antioxidant-rich diet 'cuts heart attack risk'

Just the usual correlational garbage.  Proves nothing. Pure speculation

Eating lots of antioxidant-rich fruit and vegetables does appear to cut the chance of having a heart attack, but popping vitamin pills in the hope of aping a healthy diet does not, according to research.

Swedish researchers estimate that eating a diet high in antioxidants - mainly derived from fruit and veg - could cut the chance of a heart attack by a quarter.

The results contrast with studies that suggest taking antioxidant supplements, such as vitamin A, C and E pills, has no effect.

They believe that different antioxidant compounds could work together to protect the body in a much more powerful way than taking single large doses can achieve.

Specifically, the researchers found that older women ate seven fruit and vegetable portions a day, were between 20 and 29 per cent less likely to have a heart attack over a decade, than those who ate just 2.4.

The researchers assessed antioxidant intake by looking at the diets of 30,000 Swedish women aged 49 to 83 at the start of the study.

Those with the highest antioxidant intake were 20 per cent less likely to have suffered a heart attack than those with the lowest intake, after statistically adjusting for a host of factors like differences in age, weight, and whether they smoked or exercised.

Women who ate a lot of fruit and vegetables also tended to eat less saturated fat. When the researchers adjusted for intake of fats, the difference in heart attack rates rose to 29 per cent. The study did not look at overall mortality.  [I wonder why?]

Dr Alicja Wolk from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, who was the lead researcher, said their research contrasted with tests of single antioxidant supplements, which have largely failed to find evidence that they cut heart attacks or mortality rates.

Pamela Hannley, managing editor of the American Journal of Medicine, where the report is published, said: “Although weight-loss diets abound, the few which emphasize increasing intake of fruits and vegetables actually may be on the right track."

However, not all ascribe to the theory that antioxidants are universally good for health. Two years ago cardiologists at King's College London published results that some free radicals could actually help protect against heart disease.


Monday, September 24, 2012

"A rancid, corrupt way to report about science"

On 21st, I called the study discussed below a fraud.  I said so after just looking at the initial media report.  It seems that my judgment was well justified  -- JR

The quote in the headline on this post comes from Carl Zimmer's blog, The Loom, in a commentary on coverage of recent European study on possible health effects of eating GM crops. To give you the short version, the study authors appear to have practiced some very questionable science and some - and cynical - manipulation of the science media.

Or as Ivan Oransky put it on Embargo Watch:  "A study of the effect of genetically modified corn on rats that you may have read about earlier this week doesn’t seem to have said much about whether GMOs are safe. But it sure said a lot about how the scientists who did the work used a crafty embargo to control their message."

And Zimmer and Oranky weren't the only notable science writers to express real dismay over the way the French researchers worked to control the media in this case (you'll find in Oransky's post the fact that the lead researcher has a book coming out on the subject of GM crops, by the way).

The story began in fairly standard way, publication of a study on the effects of feeding the weedkiller, Roundup, and Roundup resistant corn to rats.  The study, published in the Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology, which was embargoed for release this week.

Here was the catch: The researchers agreed to provide advance copies of the study, which purported to find that a large increase in tumors in the GMO-crop and herbicide exposed rodents, only  journalists would sign an agreement not to show the paper to any other scientists for comment. In other words, the initial stories would be required to take the study at face value. Although Oransky notes that news outlets later updated their story, the first accounts are still enjoying an uncritical ride in activist circles, such as this one from France's Le Monde, where I assume the agreement was signed and which reads almost like a press release.

As the researcher and science blogger Scicurious pointed out in a post at Scientific American's The Crux, this meant that such stories played right into the anti-GMO narrative rather than putting the story in full context or calling attention to the concerns expressed by other researchers about the validity of the results.

To quote: Scicurious: "Following the release of the study, numerous scientists questioned the findings, citing 'anomalies throughout the paper that normally should have been corrected or resolved through the peer-review process.' In particular, there are problems with the statistics performed on the data, the way the data were presented, and the numbers and types of animals used in the study."

Among the problems, for instance, the researchers chose a strain of rats known to spontaneously develop tumors without exposure to any of the products under study. Given a 30 percent mortality rate in their control animals, they also failed to provide ncessary data about which those animals had developed tumors. In fact, so many scientists criticized the findings that the British-based Science Media Centre ended up putting a resource list of such comments on its website.

At The New York Times, Andy Revkin noted that anti-GMO advocates were already promoting the uncritical versions of the study. The piece is also worth reading for the excellent point about the "single-study syndrome" - the tendency of advocacy groups to use these kinds of reports, often out of the context of the greater body of work, to argue their points.

Which is exactly what Rosie Mestal, at The Los Angeles Times, reported - that  the study - despite the methodological criticisms -  "was embraced by opponents of genetically altered foods, including backers of Proposition 37, which if approved by California voters in November would require most foods with genetically modified ingredients to bear a label."

Still, outside of activist circles, it's worth noting that many (good) journalists responded with skepticism to the report:

 At The Washington Post, Tim Carman wrote a thoroughly researched story, describing the study as controversial in the very first graf. (The headline - "French Scientists Question Safety of GM Corn" - oversimplified but that's another risk inherent in single study syndrome).

At Boing-Boing, Maggie Koerth-Baker wrote a savvy and sharp-edged analysis with the excellent headline: Authors of study linking GM corn with rat tumors mainpulated media to prevent criticism of their work."

At Discovery News, we find Emily Sohn's excellent "GM Corn-Tumor Link Based on Poor Science".

At Geekosystem, Ian Chant goes farther, calling lead researcher, Gilles-Eric Séralini of the University of Caen,  sketchy for refusing to turn over his data to the EU agency responsible for food safety. This follows on a report from Martin Enserink at Science that agencies with both the EU and the French government are planning to investigate the results more thoroughly.

In other words, that non-disclosure demand from Séralini and his colleagues should have been a red flag from the beginning, a warning that this could be some very suspect research. And the appropriate response from any journalist should have been a flat no - it's far better to be second-day on a suspect story than to be suckered on the first day. Or, to quote Zimmer again, as he calls out organizations that did sign the agreement: "For shame."


Students strike against new federal school lunch rules

A far as I can see, this stupid authoritarianism is mainly going to hit poor families.  Other families can surely send their kids to school packing a sandwich or two

By 7 a.m. Monday, senior Nick Blohm already had burned about 250 calories in the Mukwonago High School weight room.

He grabbed a bagel and a Gatorade afterward; if he eats before lifting, he gets sick.

That was followed by eight periods in the classroom, and then three hours of football practice. By the time he headed home, he had burned upward of 3,000 calories - his coach thinks the number is even higher.

But the calorie cap for his school lunch? 850 calories.

"A lot of us are starting to get hungry even before the practice begins," Blohm said. "Our metabolisms are all sped up."

Following new federal guidelines, school districts nationwide have retooled their menus to meet new requirements to serve more whole grains, only low-fat or nonfat milk, daily helpings of both fruits and vegetables, and fewer sugary and salty items. And for the first time, federal funds for school lunches mandate age-aligned calorie maximums. The adjustments are part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 touted by Michelle Obama and use the updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The changes are hard to swallow for students like Blohm. On Monday, 70% of the 830 Mukwonago High students who normally buy lunch boycotted cafeteria food to protest what they see as an unfair "one size fits all thing." Middle schoolers in the district also boycotted their school lunches, with counts down nearly half Monday. They're not alone in their frustration; schools across the country are reporting students who are unhappy with the lunch offerings.

The sub sandwich line at Mukwonago High used to let students pile veggies on a six-inch French bread bun. Options now include a fist-sized whole wheat roll or multigrain wrap, and the once popular line is now mostly empty.

The healthier food is less the issue than the portions.

"A freshman girl who weighs 100 pounds can eat this lunch and feel completely full, maybe even a little bloated," said Joey Bougneit, a Mukwonago senior.

But Blohm is a 6-foot-3-inch, 210-pound linebacker. He's also class president, and takes several Advanced Placement classes. If schools want students to perform well, he said, they can't be sitting in their chairs hungry.

Last year's fare featured favorites like chicken nuggets and mini corn dogs in helpings that were "relatively decent," Bougneit said. But health-conscious regulations have changed that. Last week's super nacho plate, for example, offered just eight tortilla chips.

Adding to the dissatisfaction is a 10-cent price hike on lunches because the USDA, which oversees the National School Lunch Program, forced many districts to raise full-price lunches closer to the $2.86 it reimburses for students who qualify for free lunches. That means the leaner, greener lunches at Mukwonago High this year now cost $2.50 instead of $2.40.

"Now it's worse tasting, smaller sized and higher priced," Bougneit said.

Officials share concerns

Pam Harris, the district food service supervisor and a registered dietitian, said children's weight and poor nutrition in America are serious problems, but the changes are too abrupt.

"I could not be more passionate about this," Harris said. "I want to solve this problem. But limiting calories in school lunch is not going to help the overweight kid. What happens at home is a major piece of that puzzle."

"Our issue is pretty much kids just don't want to eat vegetables," she said. "The USDA wants to solve the problem of childhood obesity. Those are two kind of separate issues."

Harris spoke at all lunch periods Friday to explain the federal dietary changes and had students fill out comment cards explaining what they do and don't like about the new menu. She plans to send those and parent letters to the USDA in hopes the department will allow districts including Mukwonago to gradually introduce their menu over a few years.

In a clothing store bag the size of a backpack, Blohm lugged his homemade, linebacker-size lunch including a bag of raw carrots, two ham sandwiches on wheat bread, two granola bars, an apple and three applesauce cups - an estimated total of 1,347 calories.

How long will the students keep boycotting the lunch program?

"I've already told my mom we might be packing my lunch for the rest of the year," Blohm said.

Clay Iverson, Mukwonago's varsity football head coach, said student-athletes are bigger, stronger and more athletic than ever before, and their food intake needs have evolved.

"Everything has been accelerated, and maybe nutrition hasn't been," he said.

He worries that if players' stomachs are growling by the end of the school day, they'll go home and binge on anything they get their hands on and undo any of the benefits of the lighter, healthier school lunch.

Teens need a push to make healthy eating choices, Iverson said, but they've got plenty else to worry about during the football season.

"I wonder if the people who made the decision had to go through a day like Nick Blohm."


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Yoghurt a day 'cuts risk of high blood pressure'

The usual epidemiological nonsense.  Yoghurt is not a traditional food for many people so middle class people are more likely to take it up and they have better health anyway

Eating a small pot of yoghurt a day can cut the chance of having high blood pressure by a third, a study suggests.

Naturally-occurring calcium can make blood vessels more supple, enabling them to expand slightly and keep pressure low, say dietitians.

American researchers who looked at the diets of some 2,000 volunteers, found those who regularly ate a little yoghurt were less likely to develop high blood pressure.

Specifically, those who took two per cent of their calories from yoghurt were 31 per cent less likely to develop high blood pressure over a 15 year period, than those who did not.

That equates to about 40 or 50 calories from yoghurt daily, or about half a typical 4.3oz (120g) individual pot.

Huifen Wang, a public health specialist at Minnesota University, presented the research at an American Heart Association meeting about high blood pressure on Wednesday.

Rick Miller, a member of the British Dietetic Association, said calcium had “a plethora of effects on the body, including a hypo-tensive effect, meaning it helps to lower blood pressure.”

He explained: “Calcium is needed in muscle tissue, including blood vessel walls, and if there isn’t enough, they are not going to operate properly. In effect the calcium helps keep vessels supple.”

Calcium from dairy products like yoghurt and milk was particularly good for this, he said.

But taking too much calcium in pill form could have the opposite effect, he cautioned.

Studies indicate it can then be deposited on artery walls, leading to hardening of the arteries.

Mr Miller said were also suggestions that the ‘friendly’ bacteria in yoghurt could help lower blood pressure, although these were not conclusive.

Professor Gareth Beevers, a trustee of the Blood Pressure Association, said other studies had shown yoghurt to have a "small effect" on lowering blood pressure, but he said it should not be considered a way of counteracting it in people who already had hypertension.

"I would regard it as part of a healthy lifestyle - even if personally I can't stand the stuff," he said.

More than 8.5 million people are registered as having high blood pressure. People with the condition are three times more likely to develop heart disease and suffer strokes as people with normal blood pressure and twice as likely to die from these.

Patients are often put on drugs to lower their blood pressure, such as beta-blockers and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors. In 2008, the NHS in England spent £83 million on beta-blockers alone.


'Healthy' vitamins to avoid if you're ill

Are you one of the many who has a pot of vitamins by the kettle or in the bathroom that you vow to take every day — but don’t? There may be no need to feel guilty after all.

Ten million of us take vitamins regularly — whether for general health or specific conditions. And we spend a whopping £175 million a year on supplements and pills which contain antioxidants that are claimed to help combat disease.

But despite all the promises, the pros and cons of vitamins and supplements are still very debatable — and studies show that some can be bad for your health.

Just last month U.S. researchers discovered the routine practice of taking calcium and/or vitamin D supplements to protect against bone loss caused by hormonal therapy for prostate cancer could actually be making patients’ conditions worse.

You should always speak to your doctor before taking any supplement, says Professor Hilary  Powers, head of human nutrition at Sheffield University.

‘Some illnesses can alter the way our body uses vitamins and minerals. Added to that, there may be adverse interactions between medications and supplements which might influence the safety of the supplement or action of the drug.’

Remember that it’s the vitamin and mineral supplements taken in addition to your daily diet that can cause problems — not the nutrients found in your day-to-day diet.

‘There’s absolutely no need to limit your intake of certain foodstuffs because they may contain a certain vitamin,’ stresses Sylvia Turner, of the British Dietetic Association.


Friday, September 21, 2012

GM corn caused extensive cancers in rats?

The results below are so extreme that a fraud has to be suspected.  What else were the rats fed?  Peer review is no defence against fraud.  The research was led by "a  critic of GM technology".  Spare us!

Rats fed a lifelong diet of one of the bestselling strains of genetically modified corn suffered tumours and multiple organ damage, according to a controversial French study published today.

Scientists said the results raised serious questions about the safety of GM foods and the assurances offered by biotech companies and governments.

The first lifetime trials involving rats fed on GM corn found a raised incidence of breast tumours, liver and kidney damage.

Dr Michael Antoniou, a molecular biologist at King’s College, London, and an expert on GM foods, said: ‘It shows an extraordinary number of tumours developing earlier and more aggressively – particularly in female animals. I am shocked by the extreme negative health impacts.’

The research was carried out by Caen University in France, and has been peer reviewed by independent scientists to guarantee the experiments were properly conducted and the results are valid.

It is the first to look at the impact of eating a GM diet over a lifetime in rats, which is two years. To date, safety assessments of GM crops have been based on rat feeding trials lasting 90 days.

The corn was genetically modified to withstand spraying with glyphosate, the main chemical in the weedkiller Roundup, developed by Monsanto. The idea is that the corn can be sprayed without being damaged, while weeds are destroyed.

The tests looked at the impact of several scenarios including eating the GM corn (NK603), eating the GM corn sprayed with Roundup, and consuming Roundup at low doses in water.

The results were compared against those for a control group fed a ‘clean’ diet without GM or Roundup.  The researchers found:

 *   Between 50 to 80 per cent of female rats developed large tumours by the beginning of the 24th month, with up to three tumours per animal. Only 30 per cent of the control rats developed tumours

 *   Up to 70 per cent of females died prematurely compared with only 20 per cent in the control group

 *   Tumours in rats of both sexes fed the GM corn were two to three times larger than in the control group

*    The large tumours appeared in females after seven months, compared to 14 months in the control group. The team said the tumours were ‘deleterious to health due to a very large size’, making it difficult for the rats to breathe and causing digestive problems.

Significantly, the majority of tumours were detectable only after 18 months – meaning they could be discovered only in long-term feeding trials.

The study – led by molecular biologist Professor Gilles-Eric Seralini, a  critic of GM technology, and published yesterday in US journal Food and Chemical Toxicology – said the GM corn and Roundup weedkiller ‘may cause hormonal disturbances in the same biochemical and physiological pathway’.

The Daily Mail’s Frankenstein Food Watch campaign has long highlighted problems with the lack of rigorous safety assessments for GM crops and food.

Although GM corn is widely used in the US, British consumers have turned their backs on the technology because of  concerns about its impact on human health and the environment.  Although it is not available in British supermarkets, it is fed to farm animals including chickens, pigs and dairy cows.

Mustafa Djamgoz, professor of Cancer Biology at Imperial College, London,  said the findings relating to eating GM corn were a surprise.  ‘We are what we eat,’ he added. ‘I work at the molecular level on cancer. There is evidence what we eat affects our genetic make-up and turns genes on and off.  ‘We are not scaremongering here. More research is warranted.’

Dr Julian Little, of the Agricultural  Biotechnology Council, which speaks for the GM industry, insisted GM foods were safe, adding: ‘The industry takes all health concerns regarding biotech food and feed very seriously.’

Anthony Trewavas, professor of cell biology at Edinburgh University, questioned the way the research had been conducted, saying the number of rats involved in the study – 200 – was too small to draw any meaningful conclusions.  ‘To be frank, it looks like random  variation to me in a rodent line likely to develop tumours anyway,’ he said.

He also claimed Professor Seralini was an anti-GM campaigner and that previous studies questioning the technology’s safety had not withstood scrutiny.


Are statins really such a wonder pill? New study finds they DON'T prevent blood clots

A reduced effect on replication is common but this was a complete wipeout. 

Cholesterol-lowering statin drugs do not appear to help prevent blood clots, according to an extensive new study.

Researchers from Oxford University led a team that looked at 29 published and unpublished trials involving over 100,000 people.

They found venous thrombosis (a blood clot formed in a vein) occurred in 0.9 per cent of people taking statins compared to one per cent of people who were not taking the drugs. There was no difference between those who took higher or lower doses of statins.

The study, published in the open-access journal PLoS Medicine, said: 'We were unable to confirm the large proportional reduction in (clot) risk.'  However, it added that 'a more modest but perhaps clinically worthwhile' effect could not be ruled out.

In 2009, a trial called JUPITER found that so-called rosuvastatin -- marketed as Crestor -- halved the risk of blood clots among apparently healthy adults, a finding that boosted suggestions the drug should be taken preventively. But the figures to support this finding were relatively small.

The 2009 study randomly assigned 17,800 people to take Crestor or dummy pills.  After two years of followup, 34 in the statin group and 60 in the placebo group developed a venous thrombo-embolism, a clot which can form in the legs and travel to the lungs. The latest study, led by Kasem Rahimi, found no such effect.

Commenting on the findings, British Heart Foundation medical director, Professor Peter Weissberg, said: 'It has long been thought that statins may have additional health benefits on top of their proven ability to reduce heart attacks and strokes.

'An earlier study suggested that one statin, rosuvastatin, might reduce the risk of blood clots in deep veins and lungs, known as venous thromboembolism.  'However, findings in single studies can sometimes happen by chance. By pooling a large amount of data on several different types of statin, this analysis shows that any significant protection against blood clots is highly unlikely.'


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Children of older mothers do better

Probably because those who have children early tend to be a bit dim to start with  -- and dimness is hereditary

The British study said children born to women over 40 benefited from improved health and language development up to the age of five. It also found increasing maternal age was associated with children having fewer hospital admissions and accidents, a higher likelihood of having their immunisations by the time they were nine months old and fewer social and emotional difficulties.

Older mothers tend to be more educated, have higher incomes and be married - all factors associated with greater child wellbeing, said the study from University College London's Institute of Child Health, which looked at data covering more than 78,000 children, and was published in the British Medical Journal.

In Australia, 4 per cent of the almost 300,000 women who gave birth in 2009 were aged 40-plus. Gino Pecoraro, a spokesman for the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said older mothers tended to be more established, educated, mature and financially settled, helping with language development and the potentially improved supervision of children.

"At least, for a change, the headlines are pointing out something good about being older as it is usually all so dismal," said Hannah Dahlen, the associate professor of midwifery at the University of Western Sydney and national spokeswoman for the Australian College of Midwives.

Ms Dahlen gave birth to her daughter a few weeks before her 40th birthday.

"It is well known that this phenomenon exists with children born to older mothers but most of the association is due to higher education and social advantage," she said.

"The higher educated a mother in particular is the more financially stable she is and the more likely you will see children with better linguistic skills."


No health risk from mobile phones or wi-fi, claim Norwegian researchers (but they still say you should use a hands free kit)

The critics will never give up

Using a mobile or wi-fi doesn’t cause cancer and poses no damage to health, according to a new study.

Previous studies have found low-level electromagnetic field exposure from mobiles and other transmitting devices could cause harmful heating of tissue, male infertility and cancer.

But after assessing health hazards from low-level electromagnetic fields generated by radio transmitters, researchers found there is no scientific evidence exposure to these poses a health risk.

These electromagnetic fields are found around mobile phones, wireless phones and networks, mobile phone base stations, broadcasting transmitters and other communications equipment.

Previous work has focused on the risk of cancer in the head and neck, but the Norwegian Expert Committee found no scientific evidence of an association between mobile phone use and fast growing brain tumours.

So far, the effect on slow growing tumours has been studied in people who have used mobiles for up to 20 years, but the study shows no association.

However, only limited data exists for other types of cancer - such as leukaemia and lymphoma - but there is no evidence of an increased risk from mobile use, and cancer registries have not observed an increase in these tumours since mobiles were introduced.

The Committee found no evidence low level electromagnetic field exposure from mobiles and other transmitters increase the risk of cancer, impair male fertility, cause other reproductive damage or lead to other diseases and adverse health effects - such as changes to the endocrine and immune systems.

They also discovered mobile phones and other equipment are not associated with electromagnetic hypersensitivity, but admit the symptoms - headache, fatigue, stress, sleep disturbances, skin problems and pain and ache in muscles - are not imaginary.

Professor Jan Alexander said: 'We have no grounds to say that the symptoms are imaginary.  'But a large number of studies suggest that these symptoms must have other causes than the physical effects of low-level electromagnetic fields around mobile phones, wireless transmitters and other wireless equipment.

'Research provides no evidence to support that interventions help, such as reducing the use of mobile phones or wireless networks.

'Our opinion is that patients with these health problems must be taken seriously by the health service and should be treated as other patients.

'There is a need for greater expertise in the health service for this group of patients.'

However, the researchers warn some caution should be taken by users, and exposure should not be higher than necessary to achieve the intended purpose.

The report - available from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health - says authorities should inform people that hands-free kits will significantly reduce exposure from mobile phones.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Cut down on the overtime! Working more than eight hours a day raises the risk of heart disease by 80% (?)

More useless epidemiology.  It could be that working class people were more likely to be in jobs that required overtime and they were less healthy anyway

Doing overtime increases the risk of heart  disease by up to 80 per cent, a major study has claimed.  Researchers say long working hours could be condemning thousands of employees to heart attacks and strokes.

The warning follows analysis of 12 studies dating back as far as 1958, involving a total of 22,000 people from around the world.

The analysis, by scientists at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, found that those whose working days that were longer than the traditional eight hours had a 40 to 80 per cent greater chance of heart disease.

The size of the increase varied depending on how each study was carried out.

The effects were more pronounced when participants were asked how long they worked for - but when researchers closely monitored working hours, the increased risk of heart disease was closer to 40 per cent.

Lead researcher Dr Marianna Virtanen said the effects could be due to 'prolonged exposure to stress'. Other triggers could be poor eating habits and lack of exercise due to restricted leisure time.

In 2009, the same team discovered that long working hours increased the risk of dementia later in life. The effect was similar in magnitude to that of smoking.

Middle-aged workers putting in 55 hours or more a week had poorer brain function than those clocking up no more than 40 hours, with lower scores on tests to measure intelligence, short-term memory and word recall.

Britons work some of the longest hours in Europe, with full-time employees averaging 42.7 a week. Those in Germany typically work for 42, while Danes do 39.1.

It estimated that more than five million people a year in Britain work unpaid extra hours to hang on to their jobs.

But the long-term toll on workers' health could be devastating, the new research suggests.

In a report on the findings Dr Virtanen said: 'There are several potential mechanisms that may underlie the association between long working hours and heart disease.

In addition to prolonged exposure to psychological stress she said other triggers could be raised levels of the stress hormone cortisol, poor eating habits and lack of physical activity due to restricted leisure time.


Drinking too much water probably killed bushwalker, coroner declares

It's not the water as such that kills you.  It is the way all the water dilutes the levels of salt in your blood.  The food freaks are always going on about salt being bad for you but it is too little salt that is likely to kill you

A 30-YEAR-OLD Victorian man who died while bushwalking in North-West Tasmania last year most likely died from excessive consumption of water, a coroner has found.

The findings have come with a strong warning about the dangers of drinking too much water while exercising, and calls for better education about how much water the human body can safely take in.

Coroner Michael Brett said that Jonathan Paul Dent died on or about April 19 last year while bushwalking in the Dial Ranges, near Devonport.

In handing down his findings, Mr Brett said Mr Dent had most likely died from exercise-related hyponatremia, "which itself resulted from excessive consumption of water during the course of the prolonged exertion of the bushwalk".

After an initial autopsy failed to determine Mr Dent's cause of death, Mr Brett arranged for the evidence to be reviewed by Professor Anthony Bell, whose report noted that the autopsy showed a swollen brain with signs of herniation, which was consistent with excess water consumption.

According to Mr Brett, Mr Dent had set out for a bushwalk alone about 9.30am on April 19 from Wings Wildlife Park with the intention of following the track to Foggs Flat, a walk of about four hours.

Mr Brett said Mr Dent appeared to be in good health and was well equipped for the walk - he carried a mobile phone and was appropriately dressed for the conditions.

During the course of the day, Mr Dent's wife, Katherine, had several telephone calls from him indicating that he was lost but was still hopeful of making his way to a planned meeting spot with her later in the day.

By about 4pm he called his wife saying he was tired and dehydrated.  Further conversations indicated that he was lying down and his breathing was heavy and he was coughing, Mr Brett said.

By 8.25pm, Mrs Dent reported to Ulverstone Police that her husband was missing.  Mr Dent's body was found at 1.10pm the next day on a track just north of Foggs Flats.

Mr Brett said the case highlighted two specific concerns, including a general perception, particularly among people involved in athletic activities, "that one should drink as much as possible and avoid becoming dehydrated during prolonged strenuous exercise".

He said that there was a need for greater education in relation to the danger associated with excessive consumption of fluid during exercise.

Mr Brett also highlighted the issue of bushwalking alone.  "Had Mr Dent been in company, whilst it cannot be said that he would not have suffered the condition that led to his death, I suspect that he would have been in a substantially better condition to cope with the disorientation and fear that arose from being lost," he said.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Study: Placebo or not, acupuncture relieves pain

Meta-analyses are hard to evaluate.  There is a lot of room for "fudging" in deciding what to include

Acupuncture gets a thumbs-up for helping relieve pain from chronic headaches, backaches and arthritis in a review of more than two dozen studies -- the latest analysis of an often-studied therapy that has as many fans as critics.

Some believe its only powers are a psychological, placebo effect. But some doctors believe even if that's the explanation for acupuncture's effectiveness, there's no reason not to offer it if it makes people feel better.

The new analysis examined 29 studies involving almost 18,000 adults. The researchers concluded that the needle remedy worked better than usual pain treatment and slightly better than fake acupuncture.

The results "provide the most robust evidence to date that acupuncture is a reasonable referral option," wrote the authors, who include researchers with Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York and several universities in England and Germany.

Their study isn't proof, but it adds to evidence that acupuncture may benefit a range of conditions.

The new analysis was published online Monday in Archives of Internal Medicine. The federal government's National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine paid for most of the study, along with a small grant from the Samueli Institute, a nonprofit group that supports research on alternative healing.

Acupuncture's use has become more mainstream. The military has used it to help treat pain from war wounds, and California recently passed legislation that would include acupuncture among treatments recommended for coverage under provisions of the nation's new health care law. That law requires insurance plans to cover certain categories of benefits starting in 2014. Deciding specifics is being left up to the states.

Some private insurance plans already cover acupuncture; Medicare does not.

In traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture involves inserting long, very thin needles just beneath the skin's surface at specific points on the body to control pain or stress. Several weekly sessions are usually involved, typically costing about $60 to $100 per session.


"Eat drink and be merry" is GOOD for the British taxpayer

Because abusers die younger  -- as even insurers recognize

Those with prohibitionist fantasies can bang on as much as they like about costs to the NHS of unhealthy lifestyles, but then it’s not their own money which is being discussed, is it?

If their salaries were linked to truthfulness of their statements, I think we’d see an entirely different rhetoric. After all, their current abject failure is simply not being punished, sadly.

The opposite applies to industries where proper, accurate economics – as opposed to the fairy tales told by ASH and Alcohol Concern, for example – decide what level of profit and pay actuaries are entitled to.

Binge drinkers are to be given better pension payouts by insurance companies, it emerged last night.

Those who swig more than four bottles of wine or 15 pints of beer a week could qualify for up to £2,000 a year more than someone who is clean living.

Set aside, for a minute, the laughable emotive claim that someone drinking just over two pints a day is a ‘binge-drinker’. The point here is that insurers have identified, quite rightly, that those who enjoy a drink here and there are – on a macro-economic scale – less likely to live as long as health nuts and are therefore a better financial risk.

By extension, the NHS should be very happy that the highly expensive parts of their creaking system – geriatric care – are lessened by those of us who enjoy life to the full and are quite happy to take the risk of careering into our box sozzled and stinking of cigars. The fact they are not just shows why we don’t go to our local surgery if we want a financial adviser.

It might help to explain why the NHS is bankrupt in many areas too.

Edmund Tirbutt, a health consultant and author of Help Them Beat the Booze, said: ‘There is a real danger of insurers sending out the wrong message.

‘It might make perfect commercial sense to offer more to drinkers, but it will verge on the irresponsible if insurers now start using it as a selling point.’

This is probably one of the most stupid things I have ever read from any health dickhead anywhere.

Safe in the knowledge that it isn’t his money he is risking (it never is with these people, is it?), he is adamant that the irresponsibility is with those who understand money and risk; who are the world’s prime experts at it; and realise that the insurance industry would collapse if they took idiot advice like this regularly.

Beggars belief, doesn’t it? The arrogance of the health lobby never ceases to amaze as they stray from their core knowledge base into professing themselves global experts in anything from market economics to global trade. When did the concept of doctors restricting themselves to what they are trained at, that is curing people when they are ill, cease to be applicable?

Remember, too, that insurers do not benefit from hugely inflated monetary contributions from smokers and drinkers like our government (and by extension, the NHS) does. The bonuses are being paid out despite all policy-holders paying an identical premium.

Next time you see the regular sheep-like refrain from some dull-headed online commenter that the NHS suffers financially from those who choose a lifestyle which includes booze or baccy, spark up a tab, pop open a cool one and toast their generosity in exhibiting their hilarious ignorance to the world.

Cold, hard, unbending numbers expose them as being weapons grade deludos


Monday, September 17, 2012

Spinach could help fight off dementia (?)

There were absolutely NO findings about spinach in the research below,  just stupid old antioxidant speculation

Spinach could help beat help beat dementia, according to a study.   Researchers have discovered a link between low vitamin C, beta-carotene levels and dementia.

So antioxidant rich fruit and vegetables - such as spinach, carrots and apricots - could help fight the disease’s devastating symptoms, their findings suggest.

German scientists from the University of Ulm looked at the differences between 74 people with mild Alzheimer’s disease and 158 healthy subjects.

The participants, aged between 65 and 90, underwent neuropsychological testing, answered questions about their lifestyle and had their blood examined and their body mass index calculated.

The team, led by epidemiologist Professor Gabriele Nagel and neurologist Professor Christine von Arnim, found the serum-concentration of the antioxidants vitamin C and beta-carotene were significantly lower in patients with mild dementia than in control group.

There was no such difference between the groups in levels of other antioxidants including vitamin E, lycopene, coenzyme Q10.

Dr Nagel said although more studies were needed to confirm the results, the findings suggested fruits and vegetables could play a role in fighting the disease.

'Longitudinal studies with more participants are necessary to confirm the result that vitamin C and beta-carotene might prevent the onset and development of Alzheimer’s disease,' he said.

'Vitamin C can for example be found in citrus fruits; beta-carotene in carrots, spinach or apricots.'


Diabetics with sympathetic doctors are more likely to have a better outcome and fewer complications

This is just old "correlation is causation" rubbish.  Maybe middle class people had nicer doctors and had better health anyway

Patients with more sympathetic, understanding doctors have better outcomes and fewer complications, new research suggests.  By measuring a doctor's understanding of a patient's concerns, pain, suffering and an intention to help, researchers found a link between diabetic patients' outcomes and their physicians.

A large study done by a team from Thomas Jefferson University along with Italian researchers evaluated the relationships among 20,961 diabetic patients and 242 primary care physicians they were enrolled to in Parma, Italy.

Mohammadreza Hojat, Ph.D., research professor of the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior and director of Jefferson Longitudinal Study of Medical Education in the Center for Research in Medical Education and Health Care at Jefferson Medical College said: 'This new, large-scale research study has confirmed that empathic physician-patient relationships is an important factor in positive outcomes.

'It takes our hypothesis one step further.  'Compared to our initial study, it has a much larger number of patients and physicians, a different tangible clinical outcome, hospital admission for acute metabolic complications, and a cross-cultural feature that will allow for generalisation of the findings in different cultures, and different health care systems.'

Researchers used the Jefferson Scale of Empathy (JSE) which measures the level of empathy in the context of patient care.

Researchers used the results of two medical tests, the haemoglobin A1c (blood) test and cholesterol levels measurements, and found a direct association between a physian's JSE and a better control of their patient's medical results.

Dr Hojat said: 'Results of this study confirmed our hypothesis that a validated measure of physician empathy is significantly associated with the incidence of acute metabolic complications in diabetic patients, and provide the much needed, additional empirical support for the beneficial effects of empathy in patient care.

'These findings also support the recommendations of such professional organisations as the Association of American Medical Colleges and the American Board of Internal Medicine of the importance of assessing and enhancing empathic skills in undergraduate and graduate medical education.'

Italian patients and doctors were evaluated because there is universal health care coverage in Italy and there is no confounding effect of difference in insurance, lack of insurance or financial barriers to access care.

'What's more, this second study was conducted in a health care system in which all residents enrol with a primary care physician resulting in a better defined relationship between the patients and their primary care physicians than what exists in the United States,' said co-author Daniel Z. Louis, Managing Director for the Center for Research in Medical Education and Health Care and research associate professor of family and community medicine at JMC.

Co-author author Vittorio Maio, PharmD, M.S., MSPH, associate professor at the Jefferson School of Population Health said: 'Italy has a lower rate of switching doctors, facilitating long-lasting physician patient relationships.'


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Not a grain of truth: Bread has been 'demonised by TV nutritionists and is a vital part of our daily diet'

From hot buttered toast to the simple sandwich, bread was once the staple of the British diet.

But in recent years it has suffered from a serious image crisis and has become something of a health bogeyman, a food to be avoided and resisted.

Now nutrition scientists believe that most of the health alerts about consuming bread are myths.

Researchers at the British Nutrition Foundation said that people are instead going without vital vitamins and minerals that are contained in each loaf.

And they have dismissed 20 years of warnings that bread is responsible for a range of symptoms, including fatigue, stomach pain, bloating and headaches.  They also dispute that wheat allergies are on the increase.

Lead researcher Dr Aine O'Connor said that despite a massive downturn in bread consumption, Britain's obesity crisis is the biggest in Europe and continues to worsen.

She said that sliced white bread, in particular, had been unfairly 'demonised' by health campaigners and TV nutrition shows.

Dr O'Connor said that wheat allergies have not risen, but many people are are now incorrectly convinced they suffer from wheat intolerance or an allergy to gluten (the protein found in wheat).

'Health professionals need to dispel the myths,' she told The Sun. 'Bread is an important source of nutrition.'

Sales of bread have been dropping since the 1970s. In 1974 the average Briton got through 2.2lb (1,029g) of bread a week, by last year it had fallen to 1½lb (700g).

A survey by the University of Portsmouth in 2010 found that one in five British adults believes they are allergic to a food, with most blaming wheat.

Meanwhile, low-carb diets such as Atkins and Dukan haven’t helped either - the claims that carbohydrates cause blood sugar levels to rise, preventing the body from burning fat, have put many off their lunchtime sandwich.

Yet despite this, bread is often the food people crave the most.   Many dieters name their greatest weakness as toast in the morning or irresistible basket of warm rolls on the restaurant table.


Fizzy drink cleared as one of your five a day: Outcry as watchdog backs McDonald's health claims

A children's fizzy drink sold by McDonald's has won the right to be labelled as one of the recommended five-a-day portions of fruit and vegetables, even though it contains around six teaspoons of sugar.

The fast-food giant has been cleared by the Advertising Standards Authority watchdog to put Fruitizz in the same category as eating an apple or a serving of broccoli.

The drink is a mixture of fruit juice concentrate - including grape, raspberry and lemon - with fizzy water, natural flavourings and the preservative potassium sorbate.

A small 250ml serving, which costs 89p, has 100 calories and 25g of sugar, which equates to around six teaspoons.

The high levels of sugar come from the fruit juice content. But the ASA said that the addition of natural flavourings and preservatives in the drink 'did not negate the five-a-day benefits of that 150ml of fruit juice, providing the entire 250ml serving was consumed'.

The ASA made its decision after an investigation, which was launched in response to complaints about a McDonald's TV commercial and an advert on the Mumsnet website.

A voiceover on the TV advert said: 'Grape, apple, and raspberry juice with refreshing sparkling water.  'Fruitizz is full of fruity bubbles with no added sugar, artificial colours or flavours. And it's one of your child's five a day.'

Malcolm Clark, of the Children's Food Campaign, said the ASA ruling was evidence that the rules which define health claims around fruit and vegetables are not sufficiently strict.

He added: 'McDonald's is only doing what other companies do: exploiting the laxness surrounding the five-a-day claims regime for commercial benefit.

'We are concerned that increasingly the five-a-day message - originally designed to tackle cancer and heart disease - is being used to promote junk foods, sometimes with very low fruit or vegetable content.

'If the Government actually values the five-a-day claim and wants it to be a meaningful label that consumers can have confidence in, they need to re-issue and reinforce robust guidance restricting the five-a-day message to genuinely healthy foods.'

Dietitian Christina Merryfield, of London's Bupa Cromwell Hospital, said: 'Sugary drinks can encourage tooth decay and erosion and lead to weight gain.  'Water is a much better option and milk is great because it is full of calcium and other vitamins and minerals.'

A McDonald's spokesman said: 'We welcome the ruling by the ASA. Fruitizz is a drink designed for the Happy Meal menu, served in a 250ml measure as standard and it is not marketed in any larger sizes.

'In the development of Fruitizz we followed the five-a-day guidance provided by the Department of Health.  'Fruitizz contains no added sugars, artificial colours or artificial flavours and all size servings provide one daily portion of fruit, as defined by the Department of Health.'


Friday, September 14, 2012

LOL.   Gorging on a high fat diet can PREVENT obesity!

It's welcome news for anyone who has ever tried to shift a few pounds.  Eating a high fat diet can actually prevent obesity and improve your metabolism, according to a study.

After tests on mice, researchers found eating a high fat diet on a fixed schedule - eating at the same time for the same length of time each day - leads to a reduction in body weight and a ‘unique’ metabolism.

Previous research has revealed disrupting mammals’ daily rhythms, or feeding them a high fat diet, disrupts metabolism and leads to obesity.

However, scientists say eating on a schedule leads to a metabolism where ingested fats are not stored, but used for energy at times when food is not available.

And improving metabolism through careful scheduling of meals, without limiting the amount of food, could be used to prevent obesity in people.

They hypothesised careful scheduling of meals would regulate the biological clock and reduce the effects of a high-fat diet that, under normal circumstances, would lead to obesity.

For 18 weeks, researchers fed mice a high fat diet on a fixed schedule, comparing these mice to three control groups - one eating a low fat diet on a fixed schedule, one that ate on an unscheduled low fat and one group eating an unscheduled high fat diet.

Results showed all four groups of mice gained weight throughout the experiment, but final body weight was greater in the group that ate an unscheduled high fat diet.

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem researchers also found the mice on the scheduled high fat diet had a lower final body weight than the mice eating an unscheduled high fat diet.

But surprisingly the mice on the scheduled high fat diet also had a lower final body weight than the mice eating an unscheduled low fat diet - despite both groups consuming the same amount of calories, the FASEB Journal study says.

Professor Oren Froy said: 'Our research shows that the timing of food consumption takes precedence over the amount of fat in the diet, leading to improved metabolism and helping to prevent obesity.

'Improving metabolism through the careful scheduling of meals, without limiting the content of the daily menu, could be used as a therapeutic tool to prevent obesity in humans.'


New stem cell gel applied to site of injury 'can regenerate broken spinal cord nerves to an astonishing degree'

It will be a huge step forward if this generalizes to people but caution is advisable.  Regeneration is not uncommon in lower  species but not found in people

A stem cell gel developed by scientists can regenerate broken spinal cord nerves, research has shown.

The gel is applied to the site of an injury. In rats with completely severed spinal cords, it produced an 'astonishing degree' of nerve growth, U.S. scientists said.  Treated animals which were previously paralysed experienced 'significant' functional improvement and were able to move all the joints of their affected legs.

The gel was made by embedding neural stem cells in a mixture of blood clotting protein and growth chemicals.

Lead researcher Professor Mark Tuszynski, from the University of California at San Diego, said: 'Using this method, after six weeks the number of axons (nerve fibres) emerging from the injury site exceeded by 200-fold what had ever been seen before.

'The axons also grew ten times the length of axons in any previous study, and, importantly, the regeneration of these axons resulted in significant functional improvement.'  Similar results were obtained in the laboratory using human stem cells.

Cells were tagged with a fluorescent protein so that their progress could be monitored.  Scientists watched them grow, become neurons, and sprout axons.

In June, it was announced that researchers had successfully grown living bones in a laboratory using stem cells.

That technique could in future be used to replace shattered limbs, treat osteoporosis and arthritis and fix defects such as cleft palate, it was claimed.

The researchers took around a month to transform stem cells originally taken from fat tissue into sections of fully-formed bone up to several centimetres long.

Standard bone grafts involve two procedures, to cut bone from elsewhere in the patient's body before transplanting it into the damaged area, which carry the risk of infection and complications.

Bone can also be obtained from donations, but this brings the chance of rejection.

The new method would allow bones to be custom made to shape outside the body, using the patients own stem cells, removing the need for a potentially traumatic operation and reducing the likelihood of rejection.

So far the research has been carried out only on animals but a patient trial is planned for later this year.

That Israeli technology, developed by biotech company Bonus BioGroup and researchers at the Technion Institute of Research, involves growing the bone to fit the exact shape and size of the damaged area.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Horrors!  Fish oil supplements 'do NOT cut risk of heart attacks and strokes'

To food freaks this is like declaring God is dead!  But they're not giving up yet

Scientists claim fish oil supplements do not cut the risk of heart attacks and strokes despite being widely used and even prescribed for prevention.

A review of 20 studies involving almost 70,000 patients concluded that taking omega-3 fatty acids derived from fish oil had no significant effect on rates of heart attacks, strokes and heart-related deaths.

Previous trials have had conflicting results about whether supplements may protect the heart.

But fish oil supplements are approved on the NHS to prevent heart attack survivors from having a second attack and recommended in official guidelines.

Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (Pufas) are known to fight inflammation, one of the key processes that contribute to narrowing of the arteries.

Researchers conducting the new study analysed data on 7,044 deaths, 3,993 heart-related deaths, 1,150 sudden deaths, 1,837 heart attacks and 1,490 strokes.

The results, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, showed no evidence of risk reduction associated with omega-3.

Dr Evangelos Rizos, from the University Hospital of Ioannina, Greece, who led the study, said 'In conclusion, omega-3 Pufas are not statistically significantly associated with major cardiovascular outcomes across various patient populations.

'Our findings do not justify the use of omega-3 as a structured intervention in everyday clinical practice, or guidelines supporting dietary omega-3 Pufa administration.'

Fish oil supplements are approved for prescribing on the NHS to patients after a heart attack, or who have metabolic syndrome or high triglycerides - unhealthy blood fats.

Omacor, which is licensed for post-heart attack treatment, has been shown in clinical trials to cut the risk of sudden death by up to 45 per cent.

Britons are currently advised to eat fish at least twice a week, including one portion of oily fish.  Oily fish contain the highest levels of omega 3 fatty acids, which are considered essential because the body cannot make them from other sources and must obtain them through diet.

Omega-3 fats are important throughout adult life for mental wellbeing but in particular help heart patients, and those with arthritis, by blocking the body's response to inflammation.

They work in several ways to reduce heart attack risk by cutting blood fats, reducing the chances of a blood clot and blocking dangerous heart rhythms that might otherwise prove fatal.
Omega-3 fats are important throughout adult life for mental wellbeing but in particular help heart patients, and those with arthritis, by blocking the body's response to inflammation.

Omega-3 fats are important throughout adult life for mental wellbeing but in particular help heart patients, and those with arthritis, by blocking the body's response to inflammation.

Dr Carrie Ruxton, from the industry-backed Health Supplements Information Service, said the EU Commission had recently authorised a favourable heart health claim for omega-3 fatty acids.

She questioned why only 20 studies were used in the analysis of existing trials, when 3,635 papers were considered.

She said 'Omega-3 fatty acids are well known for their heart health benefits with a significant body of evidence.'

Previous reviews found a 28 per cent reduced risk of all-cause mortality in people receiving omega-3 supplements, and a 16 per cent reduced risk of all-cause mortality.

'Moreover, the UK National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends the consumption of 1000mg daily of omega-3 fatty acids (from fish oil) in patients who have had a heart attack' she said.

Dr Ruxton said many people failed to eat recommended levels of oily fish, which meant supplements might suit them better.

'Given the low intakes of omega-3 fatty acids in the UK and many people's apparent dislike of oily fish, a supplement containing omega-3 fatty acids may be appropriate for the maintenance of heart health' she added.


Dengue vaccine shows promise in clinical trial

Good news for Northern Australia, where Dengue is endemic.  Mosquito eradication keeps it under some control but Mosquito eradication is always imperfect

A major clinical trial of the frontrunner in the race for a dengue fever vaccine is showing great promise.

Every year, the World Health Organisation estimates between 50 and 100 million people are infected with the virus, and the most vulnerable are children and adolescents.

Scientists have been searching for a vaccine for the last 90 years.  But now a drug developed by a French company has shown encouraging results, protecting against three of the four types of dengue virus in Thai children.

Cameron Simmons, a professor working in Oxford University's clinical research unit in Vietnam, says the results are hugely encouraging.  "It's regarded as a neglected tropical disease. The sheer scale of the disease burden in dengue endemic countries is enormous," he told PM.  "It's a major public health problem, places enormous strain on often fragile healthcare systems."

The major clinical trial of the drug involved 4,000 primary school aged children in Thailand.

"We were optimistic and hopeful that we would see protection against all four dengue viruses," Professor Simmons said.  "What the study has shown us is that the vaccine seems to offer protection against three and not four of the dengue viruses.

"There's more research to be done to really try and understand why protection is not against all four but we're heading in the right direction. I think that's the important result."

There is no clinical difference between the four types of virus; the patient still presents with symptoms like muscle and joint pain, fever, rashes, hair loss, intense headache and extreme fatigue.

The one type of dengue not affected by the vaccine was the most prevalent type in the study's region, and there are concerns that may have dragged down the results.

The fact that it appears to have worked on the other three has already led to speculation that that could be enough to prevent severe disease, but Professor Simmons is not so sure. 

"I think a trial of that trivalent vaccine could be possible," he said.  "But it's going to need a lot more research to understand from a modelling perspective what a trivalent vaccine might do to the epidemiology of dengue in an endemic setting and also very importantly the cost effectiveness of such a vaccine."

Professor Simmons says even for countries like Vietnam, where child mortality rates from dengue fever are relatively low, any hope is welcome.  "The disease burden is enormous here, 10 to 15 per cent of the hospitalised patients in the hospital that I work in are dengue cases," he said.

"So it's one of the most important causes of hospitalisation for children. So the scale of the disease burden is enormous, public health importance is very large.  "One dengue virus infection actually predisposes you to a more severe infection a second time around and so it's a complicated disease in that fashion."

A third stage of the trial involving 30,000 people from South-East Asia and Latin America is due to deliver results in 2014.

Professor Simmons says he is hoping for a fully-fledged dengue virus vaccine within five to 10 years.