Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Adults conceived via IVF are well-adjusted with a positive perception of their environment

There are incessant attempts by mean-spirited people to find something wrong with IVF so the facts below might help shut their stupid cakeholes for a while

ADULTS who were born through IVF are just as well-adjusted and satisfied with life as those conceived naturally, the first longitudinal study into IVF children's quality of life has found.

The only significant difference discovered was that young IVF-conceived adults had a more positive perception of their environment, including of their safety, finances and learning opportunities.

Melbourne researchers surveyed about 1100 adults aged 18-29, half of whom were IVF-conceived, measuring 26 life quality factors including satisfaction with relationships, medical treatment needed, sleep and moods.

The research also took into account the person's work status, birth weight and their parents' financial situation.

The findings were presented at the Fertility Society of Australia's annual conference in New Zealand yesterday.

IVF experts say the findings are an important validation that the procedure is safe for children's social and psychological health in the long term.

The first generation of IVF babies are now starting to have their own children, including through artificial fertilisation.

"The results aren't surprising, because there's no doubt these kids were wanted," said Melbourne IVF's medical director Dr Lyndon Hale.  "Common sense suggests that these kids would have lots of input from their parents."

The study was a collaboration between researchers from Monash and Melbourne IVF, the Murdoch Children's Research Institute, the Jean Hailes Research Unit, the Royal Women's Hospital and the University of Melbourne.

The mother's smile says it all

Bianca and Matt Smith's two children, nine-week-old Mason and 22-month-old Isla, were both long-awaited arrivals with the help of Melbourne IVF.  Ms Smith, 35, said that after years of trying to conceive naturally, she was investing her energy in raising happy, well-adjusted children.

"You long for them for so long. You spend a lot of money and time going through a lot physically and emotionally, and it's all worth it," Ms Smith said.


Why you may NEVER shed those extra pounds: Being overweight can flick a switch that keeps you fat forever

One of the most frustrating mysteries of weight loss is why the pounds seem to inevitably pile back on, following a successful diet.

Researchers found that being obese can reset 'normal' body weight to a permanently elevated level.

Tests in mice found that the longer the animals remained overweight, the more likely their condition would become 'irreversible', making it difficult to maintain meaningful weight loss.

Study author Dr Malcolm Low, from the University of Michigan said: 'Our model demonstrates that obesity is in part a self-perpetuating disorder and the results further emphasise the importance of early intervention in childhood to try to prevent the condition whose effects can last a lifetime.

'Our new animal model will be useful in pinpointing the reasons why most adults find it exceedingly difficult to maintain meaningful weight loss from dieting and exercise alone.'

The researchers used a new model of obesity-programmed mice that allowed weight loss success to be tracked at different stages and ages by flipping a genetic switch that controls hunger. Turning on the switch right after weaning prevented the mice from overeating and ever becoming obese.

Similarly, mice that remained at a healthy weight into young adulthood by strict dieting alone were able to maintain normal weight without dieting after turning on the switch.

However, chronically overfed mice with the earliest onset of obesity never completely returned to normal weight after flipping the switch, despite marked reduction in food intake and increased activity.

The new findings may raise questions about the long-term success rate of severe calorie restriction and strenuous exercise used later in life to lose weight, such as the extreme regimens seen in the popular reality television show 'Biggest Loser.'

Dr Low said: 'Somewhere along the way, if obesity is allowed to continue, the body appears to flip a switch that re-programs to a heavier set weight.

'The exact mechanisms that cause this shift are still unknown and require much further study that will help us better understand why the regaining of weight seems almost unavoidable.'

The research was a result of a collaboration between the University of Michigan and the Argentina-based National Council of Science and Technology. It appeared online in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Flu jab ‘can halve heart attack risk’: Vaccine ‘also cuts cardiac deaths and chances of stroke’

Meta-analyses have to be done well to inspire confidence and we have no published data on this one.  Bias in the studies selected for inclusion is their besetting sin.  Still, the conclusion is reasonable.  Flu puts stress on the body and preventing it might well prevent heart attacks too

The flu jab may ward off heart attacks as well as offering protection from the infectious disease, according to a study.  Researchers found that the jab can reduce the risk of a heart attack by 50 per cent and cardiac deaths by 40 per cent.

They said the influenza vaccine could be an important treatment for maintaining heart health and protecting against cardiovascular events, such as strokes and heart attacks.

Cardiologist Jacob Udell and his team looked at published clinical trials on the subject dating back to the 1960s.  ‘For those who had the  flu shot, there was a pretty strong risk reduction,’ he said.

The flu vaccine provided an approximate 50 per cent reduction in the risk of a heart attack or stroke compared with a placebo after one year of follow-up.  The vaccine reduced the risk of such cardiovascular events as well as actual deaths from them in those with or without heart disease.

The combined studies examined a total of 3,227 patients, with an almost  equal split between patients with and without established heart disease.  Half of the participants were randomly assigned to receive flu vaccine.  The others received a placebo vaccine.

Dr Udell said the results provide support for current guideline recommendations for giving the flu jab to those who have previously had a heart attack, but for a different reason than simply reducing flu risk.

While the reason for the link is not clear, Dr Udell said that it may be that when people develop heart disease some factor ‘tips them over the edge’, such as plaque clogging arteries or lower levels of oxygen, as a result of the flu.  The flu vaccine may stop  this by preventing flu, or  by actually breaking up plaque in the arteries.

He said that  he believed a bigger study  would comprehensively  demonstrate the vaccine’s effectiveness to reduce fatal cardiac events.  The research could also boost take-up of the vaccine.

Dr Udell, a cardiologist at Women’s College Hospital and Toronto University, said: ‘The use of the vaccine is still much too low, less than 50 per cent of the general population.  It’s even poorly used among health care workers.  ‘Imagine if this vaccine could also be a proven way to prevent heart disease.’

Dr Udell carried out his  study with a team from the TIMI Study Group and Network for Innovation in Clinical Research.

The findings were presented at the 2012 Canadian Cardiovascular Congress in Toronto.


Why traffic light labels on food will make us all fatter AND ruin our farmers

The great British breakfast is about to get a whole lot more complicated, thanks to a new Government-backed ‘traffic light’ food labelling scheme due to come into effect next year.

If you want to pour whole milk on your cereal — as millions of us still do — you’re likely to have to ignore a red label prominently displayed on the carton.  That’s red for stop. Milk, we are told, has too much fat.

It will be the same when we scrape a layer of butter onto our toast. Another red light: too much fat again. Fancy a rasher or two of bacon instead? Sorry, but you’ll have to ignore more red lights: one for too much salt, another for too much fat.

Or maybe you like to wake yourself up with a bowl of creamy yoghurt with some nuts or maybe some prunes. Well, tough. You could be looking at another three red lights — one each for the fat in the yoghurt and nuts, and a further red for the sugar in the prunes.

That’s before you’ve even left the house, and all for a meal that’s been getting people off to work — happy and well fed — for decades.

As my granny used to say, a proper breakfast, by which she meant porridge (eaten with whole milk and sometimes even cream) or something else substantial such as bacon and/or eggs ‘kept you going’, and she was right.

So will we really be able to trust the traffic lights, which will label foods according to the amount of fat, saturated fat, salt, sugar and calories they contain.

Though the actual amounts of those elements per 100g will be shown on the pack, it will be the eye-catching and easy-to-read traffic light graphics most shoppers turn to for guidance.

Red, of course, the traditional colour for danger, means you should probably avoid it, or at least think again because the food has too much of something that the Government considers unhealthy.

Amber means go-ahead, but in moderation, while green is so obvious it will surely become visual shorthand for healthy eating.

It all sounds simple: surely this is the breakthrough so-called health campaigners have sought for more than two decades, which will allow us all to eat more healthily as a result?

Many food and health campaigners — people I often find myself in agreement with — certainly think so. But I don’t. Why?  Because I can’t have faith in a system that sees a can of Diet Coke and a carton of popcorn scoring green lights, the former because it contains little more than colourings and artificial sweeteners and the latter, of course, because it’s mainly air.

And I’m not alone — the nation’s livestock farmers feel similarly aggrieved.  To see so many of these products, together with the ham, bacon and pork from British pigs, being unceremoniously labelled with ‘unhealthy’ red traffic lights must be infuriating.

We ought to be encouraging shoppers to buy British farm produce, not to avoid it.

So the problem with this new system is that it isn’t so much simple as simplistic, and therefore, potentially, highly misleading.

Logically, most naturally produced fruits, for instance, would merit amber or red lights because they have a high sugar content.

Tellingly, the scheme’s proponents accept this and say we should ignore the red light for sugars on fruit. But what sense does this make?  If it’s acceptable to ignore one red light, how long will it be before we’re ignoring all of them, like reckless motorists crashing through a junction?

Equally, if it’s safe to ignore some red lights, how much faith can we place in those green lights: should we ignore the suggestion that they mean something is healthy?

But even more depressing is the fact that the new scheme, despite not yet having come into effect, is already lagging badly behind the latest dietary research.

The idea that fats, and saturated fats in particular, are bad for you is melting away faster than a pat of anchovy butter (red lights for salt in the anchovy and for fat in the butter) on a sizzling slab of rib-eye steak (red light for the fat in that, too).

The truth is our bodies need fat. Saturated fat is a key component of our cells, needed for hormone production and other biological processes. It also acts as a carrier for important vitamins and helps us absorb minerals.

Yet anything with fat in it, including omega-3-rich oily fish we are constantly encouraged to eat for our health, could be branded ‘unhealthy’ by the new traffic light scheme.

So anyone following the traffic light scheme too assiduously, avoiding red meat and other red and amber light foods, could easily end up short not only of essential fats, but protein, iron and key vitamins such as vitamin B12.

Teenage girls, a group that pays close attention to what they eat, and the elderly could easily develop serious dietary deficiencies such as anaemia, fatigue and even brain function problems if they follow the traffic light labels too closely.

Health campaigners have been hammering home their anti-fat message for decades, yet it cannot have escaped anyone’s notice that over exactly the same period, Western nations — with Britain at the fore — have been getting fatter than ever before, with rates of obesity and diseases related to poor diet, such as Type 2 diabetes, rocketing.

The reasons behind this are complex, but there is a growing body of evidence that the changes are linked to official dietary advice which, for decades, has steered people away from foods containing fats and towards foods containing carbohydrates — processed and refined carbs in particular.

While this has been good news for the food processing industry — and, by strange coincidence, so much of what happens with food labelling turns out to be good for the food processing industry — it has been disastrous for our weight and wellbeing.

As any GCSE biology student will tell you, carbohydrates are metabolised by our bodies into sugars, and it is the excess of dietary sugar that is thought to be doing us so much long-term damage.

There’s another problem with these carbohydrate-rich diets. All this cereal, all this pasta, all this easy-cook rice (all likely to be green light foods) doesn’t fill you up for very long or deliver what dietitians would describe as ‘satiety’.

As a result, there are probably two generations who have grown up always feeling slightly hungry and unsatisfied, making them the perfect customers for all those tempting, snacks between meals.

Once again, the food-processing, junk-food companies win out, while trusting shoppers, trying to eat healthily, will be the losers.  Because all those refined carbohydrates have to go somewhere, and normally they head straight to our straining waistbands.

The truth is that food processing companies love food labels, because they can safely own up to whatever is in their processed foods, knowing that the vast majority of us will simply never look at them.

And who can blame us?  Even a qualified dietitian, armed with a calculator and magnifying glass, would struggle to make sense of the bewildering complexities of modern food labelling. So will the new, supposedly simpler labelling finally catch them out?

Not a bit. The food processors can endlessly fine-tune their nutritionally impoverished recipes — cutting here, replacing there, tossing in another additive when the end result doesn’t look or taste very nice — to ensure they get lots of green and amber lights.

But that is something that farmers — the producers of natural foods — really can’t do.  Yes, they can selectively breed animals to reduce the fat content of beef or pork (removing flavour as they do so), but there’s a limit to how far that can go.

As for low-fat cheese and yoghurt, they’re the work of food processors (using skimmed and semi-skimmed milk), not farmers.

Our European counterparts seem to realise the importance of this more than we do.  One of the reasons the new scheme will be voluntary in Britain (that said, under pressure from the Government, all but one of the major supermarkets are committed to it) is that to make it compulsory would have required legislation across the European Union.

French farmers wouldn’t have stood for red lights on their meat or their beloved full fat cheese for a moment, and nor, I suspect, would the French public, who have been enjoying their rich but well- balanced diet for centuries, and — apart from a recent jump in junk-food related obesity — seem no worse for it.

I refuse to believe Mother Nature is some sort of dietary psychopath, and foods we’ve been eating happily for hundreds, indeed thousands of years, are suddenly to be considered unhealthy or even dangerous.

The recipe for healthy eating is very simple — avoid processed food and base your diet on fresh, raw, unprocessed ingredients that you cook yourself.

That’s why I’m so concerned about the new labelling scheme. Those red lights will unfairly stigmatise perfectly healthy, natural foods, while the green lights will offer false reassurance to consumers, rewarding the food- processing companies that make us fatter and sicker every day.

The whole idea should be stopped permanently at its own red light, before it’s too late


Monday, October 29, 2012

Dangerous herbal pills used to treat menopausal symptoms leave woman suffering liver failure

There may be something in this but on the available evidence one would have to render the old Scottish verdict of "not proven".  It must be noted that the vast majority of users are NOT harmed

Health watchdogs have warned of the potential danger of a herbal remedy used to  treat menopausal symptoms – after one woman became so ill that she needed a liver transplant.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is concerned about products containing black cohosh, a native American plant.

It is understood the woman, who has not been named, developed liver failure after starting to use it.  It has not been confirmed how much she consumed before becoming ill.

Black cohosh is the second most popular herbal ingredient in the UK and is used to treat symptoms of the menopause such as hot flushes, night sweats, poor sleep, mood changes and irritability.

It is also often recommended as an alternative to hormone replacement therapy – and is available in capsules in most high street chemists, health food shops and supermarkets.

Richard Woodfield, the MHRA’s head of herbal policy, said: ‘It is important people with a history of liver problems do not use black cohosh herbal products.’

The latest case reported to the regulator is suspected to be directly linked to the woman using a product containing the herbal remedy and an investigation is ongoing.

The MHRA said it had received a total of 53 reports of adverse reactions suspected to be associated with the use of black cohosh products – the majority involving liver problems.

Black cohosh is registered as a herbal medicine with the MHRA under its Traditional Herbal Registration scheme, which was introduced last year to impose more stringent controls. But in some cases, the MHRA has found it being sold as a food supplement at more than 50 times the recommended dose.


Kansas Students Stage School Lunch Boycott to Protest Federal Lunchroom Nutrition Law‏

After students have been saying “we are hungry” due to new nutrition guidelines for school lunches that limit calories and increase fruits and vegetables, a group in Abilene, Kan. participated in a three-day protest against it.

The Salina Journal reports students at Abilene Senior High School against the calorie limitations in the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010, which was signed into law by the president, refused to buy school lunches, thinking it would have financial impacts that would speak louder than words.  “The biggest way to get into someone’s head is to mess with their pockets,” freshman Gehrig Geissinger said, according to the Journal.

Here’s more from the Journal on student’s thoughts regarding the lunch program protest:

    "Participating in the protest was no big deal for senior Kae Brown, 17. Kae, who sat in the hallway nursing a soft drink during lunch period, said she usually doesn’t buy cafeteria meals but understands the motivation behind the protest.  “People complained there wasn’t enough food before, so I can see why they throw a fit now,” she said.

    [World History teacher Wendy] Sherbert said she’s proud of her students for peacefully protesting something they strongly disagree with.

    “They’ve been very respectful and quiet,” she said. “This is not about food, but about control, and what role the government plays — if the government should be a substitute for parents teaching their own children.”   “Most people have been supportive of what we’re doing,” Sherbert said."

It was a recent lesson taught by Sherbert on peaceful protests that inspired the students to take action with this cause.

Even workers in the lunch room aren’t necessarily in agreement with the new regulations. The Journal reported food server Kari Beetch saying that although they’re doing what they’re told, she believes “the amount of food served should be based on the individual. Every kid needs different calories.”

Although nutrition requirements and calorie limitations have been in the spotlight from the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act lately, the act also has provisions that provide breakfasts for students who need it and also dinners and meals over summer vacation. The dinners earlier this month were featured by NBC’s Nightly News.

It may seem ironic given the complaints surrounding the lunch program’s calorie limitations supposedly leaving students hungry, NBC reported in its clip that studies show students perform better when they’re well fed as reason for supporting the federally subsidized dinners.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Prozac pregnancy alert: Mothers-to-be on anti-depressants are putting babies at risk, warn scientists

One cannot evaluate these claims without virtually redoing their literature survey but I would be surprised if the evidence was anything other than epidemiological  -- and people who are already in poor health are probably more likely to be depressed  -- thus accounting for the results

Thousands of women who take anti-depressants during pregnancy are endangering their unborn babies, researchers have warned.

The widely prescribed pills have been found drastically to raise the odds of miscarriages, premature birth, autism and life-threatening high blood pressure, they say.

Harvard researchers believe far too many women are taking the drugs during pregnancy because their GPs are not aware of the dangers.

They also suspect that drug companies are trying to play down the risks because anti-depressants are so lucrative to them.

They focused on the complications linked to a group of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which include Prozac and Seroxat.  Between 2 and 3 per cent of pregnant women in the UK are thought to be on these drugs – up to 19,500 every year.

But the researchers have found that they increase the risk of a miscarriage by 17 per cent and more than double the likelihood of pre-eclampsia – high blood pressure during pregnancy – which can be fatal.

They also double the chances of the baby being born premature, or developing autism.  In addition, the researchers say, the babies are more likely to suffer from heart defects and problems with their bowels.

SSRIs treat depression by boosting the level of the ‘happy hormone’ serotonin in the brain. But the researchers believe that serotonin is also getting into the womb and harming the development of the foetus’s brain, lungs, heart and digestive system.

Dr Adam Urato, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at Tufts University School of Medicine, in Boston, who was involved in the study, said: ‘I am absolutely concerned – very concerned.

‘We are witnessing a large-scale human experiment. Never before have we chemically altered human foetal development on such a large scale.  'And my concern is why I am trying to get the word out to patients, health care providers, and the public.’

Dr Alice Domar, assistant professor in obstetrics, gynaecology and reproductive biology at Harvard Medical School, said there was little evidence the pills effectively treated depression.

She said GPs were handing out prescriptions for the drugs even though depression could be far better treated through exercise, talking therapies and even yoga.

‘These are probably not particularly safe medicines to take during pregnancy,’ she said. ‘We’re not saying that every pregnant woman should go off her medication.  'Obviously you don’t want a pregnant woman to attempt suicide.’

The researchers, who presented their findings to the annual conference of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine in San Diego, California, have analysed more than 100 existing studies looking at the risks of SSRIs.

Their findings are due to be published next week in the respected journal Human Reproduction.

The researchers say that if women take the pills when they are trying for a baby but come off as soon as they find out they are pregnant, it may be too late.

Dr Urato added: ‘Many of the experts in this area receive funding from the anti-depressant majors. These experts continue to downplay the risks of these agents and to promote the benefits of their use in pregnancy.’

A spokesman for the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry said: ‘Clinical decisions about the treatment of depression are complex and must be made by clinicians in consultation with individual patients, regardless of whether or not they are pregnant.’


Medical studies with striking results often prove false

A statistical analysis finds that study results showing a 'very large effect' rarely hold up when other researchers try to replicate them

Given the excruciatingly bad methodology and childish logic of so many published studies, this should be no surprise at all

If a medical study seems too good to be true, it probably is, according to a new analysis.

In a statistical analysis of nearly 230,000 trials compiled from a variety of disciplines, study results that claimed a "very large effect" rarely held up when other research teams tried to replicate them, researchers reported in Wednesday's edition of the Journal of the American Medical Assn.

"The effects largely go away; they become much smaller," said Dr. John Ioannidis, the Stanford University researcher who was the report's senior author. "It's likely that most interventions that are effective have modest effects."

Ioannidis and his colleagues came to this conclusion after examining 228,220 trials grouped into more than 85,000 "topics" — collections of studies that paired a single medical intervention (such as taking a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug for postoperative pain) with a single outcome (such as experiencing 50% relief over six hours). In 16% of those topics, at least one study in the group claimed that the intervention made patients at least five times more likely to either benefit or suffer compared with control patients who did not receive the treatment.

In at least 90% of those cases, the team found, including data from subsequent trials reduced those odds.

The analysis revealed several reasons to question the significance of the very-large-effect studies, Ioannidis said.

Studies that reported striking results were more likely to be small, with fewer than 100 subjects who experienced fewer than 20 medical events. With such small sample sizes, Ioannidis said, large effects are more likely to be the result of chance.

"Trials need to be of a magnitude that can give useful information," he said.

What's more, the studies that claimed a very large effect tended to measure intermediate effects — for example, whether patients who took a statin drug reduced their levels of bad cholesterol in their blood — rather than incidence of disease or death itself, outcomes that are more meaningful in assessing medical treatments.

The analysis did not examine individual study characteristics, such as whether the experimental methods were flawed.

The report should remind patients, physicians and policymakers not to give too much credence to small, early studies that show huge treatment effects, Ioannidis said.

One such example: the cancer drug Avastin. Clinical trials suggested the drug might double the time breast cancer patients could live with their disease without getting worse. But follow-up studies found no improvements in progression-free survival, overall survival or patients' quality of life. As a result, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2011 withdrew its approval to use the drug to treat breast cancer, though it is still approved to treat several other types of cancer.

With early glowing reports, Ioannidis said, "one should be cautious and wait for a better trial."

Dr. Rita Redberg, a cardiologist at UC San Francisco who was not involved in the study, said devices and drugs frequently get accelerated approval on the basis of small studies that use intermediate end points.  "Perhaps we don't need to be in such a rush to approve them," she said.

The notion that dramatic results don't hold up under closer scrutiny isn't new. Ioannidis, a well-known critic of the methods used in medical research, has written for years about the ways studies published in peer-reviewed journals fall short. (He's perhaps best known for a 2005 essay in the journal PLoS Medicine titled, "Why Most Published Research Findings Are False.")

But the scope of the JAMA analysis sets it apart from Ioannidis' earlier efforts, said Dr. Gordon Guyatt, a clinical epidemiologist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, who was not involved in the work.  "They looked through a lot of stuff," he said.

Despite widespread recognition that big effects are likely to disappear upon further scrutiny, people still "get excited, and misguidedly so" when presented with home-run results, Guyatt said.

He emphasized that modest effects could benefit patients and were often "very important" on a cumulative basis.


Friday, October 26, 2012

Can cheese harm a man’s fertility?

This is just correlational crap and is based on self-report at that.  Because it has not been peer reviewed and published it is difficult to evaluate but it seems odd that the commonest index of fertility  -- sperm count  -- is not mentioned.  Did it fail to correlate?  I suspect so

The author has other articles on peri-natal defects and problems so one wonders what precautions she has taken here against experimenter bias.  Her study is certainly a long way from double blind

Cheese is very popular so if cheese is bad for your fertilty it is a wonder we exist at all

Scientist from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, the US, compared the diets of 189 men aged 19 to 25.  None were overweight - they were all very fit and did at least one and a half hour’s exercise a week.

They had each filled in a questionnaire answering how often they ate dairy products, fruit, meat and other types of food during a typical week.

The researchers also looked at their sperm including how fast it travelled and its shape.

They found that the sperm of men who ate more than three portions of full-fat dairy food a day was 25 per cent poorer quality than those who had less.

The researchers will present their findings this week at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine’s annual conference in San Diego, California.

Myriam Afeiche, who led the study, explained that the female hormone oestrogen in milk that had come from the cow may be affecting men’s fertility.  It may also be impaired by pesticides which find their way in to dairy products, she added.

'While it has been suggested that full-fat dairy products may negatively affect semen quality, very few studies have actually examined this question directly.

‘The association could be attributed to the high levels of naturally occurring reproductive hormones in commercial dairy products.

‘It is also possible that the presence of other compounds in dairy such as pesticides, chlorinated pollutants, and heavy metals could account for this relation.’

But Dr Allan Pacey, fertility expert at the University of Sheffield and Chairman of the British Fertility Society said men should not give up on dairy purely on the basis of this study.  He pointed out that even though the men’s fertility had gone down, they wouldn’t have any problems conceiving.  ‘Although it goes down, it doesn’t go into the red.’

‘A change of that magnitude for a man in a fertility clinic, we wouldn’t worry about that.

‘What I would say about diets is we don’t understand it well enough. I wouldn’t want to scare men out of drinking milk.’


HRT taken during menopause can protect women against Alzheimer's

How the worm has turned!  After years of HRT being demonized, it is now good for all sorts of things

HRT can protect women against Alzheimer's – providing it is taken at the menopause, according to  researchers.

A study showed women who began taking hormone replacement therapy within five years of the menopause cut their risk of the disease by a third.

But the findings suggest that if HRT is started in later life, it could give women a greater risk of developing the condition, leading some experts to believe there is a 'window of opportunity' when the benefits are maximised.

The researchers at Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore, followed 1,768 women aged 65 and over for 11 years, recording a history of their HRT use and the date their menopause began.

A total of 1,105 women had used some form of hormone therapy, the report in journal Neurology noted.

During the study, 176 women developed Alzheimer's disease, including 87 of the women who had taken hormone therapy compared with 89 of the 663 who had not.

The study found that women who began HRT within five years of the menopause had a 30 per cent lower risk of Alzheimer's dementia than those who had not used HRT.

The risk was unchanged among other hormone users who began treatment more than five years after the  menopause. And the protective effect was even larger in women using HRT for ten years or more.

But the risk of dementia among women who had started HRT when they were at least 65, which, depending on the individual, can be more than a decade after the menopause, was almost doubled.

The protective effect from HRT may come from boosting supplies of the hormone oestrogen, which is thought to play a key role in keeping the brain healthy, or the improvement in heart risk factors linked to HRT.

Earlier this month a study found HRT can reduce the risk of heart attacks and heart failure.

In the United Kingdom, women in their 50s are told to use HRT drugs short-term and for no longer than  five years.

Dr Simon Ridley, head of research at Alzheimer's Research UK, said: 'Previous research into HRT has shown mixed results, but this useful study suggests the timing of hormone use may be critical for either raising or reducing the risk of Alzheimer's.

'More work is needed to understand this link and help women make informed decisions about whether to start HRT, but these findings could be important for guiding future research.'


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Drug firms are 'risking lives by hiding bad trials and side effects of their medicines'

This is a routine claim but where is the evidence for it?  Some studies are legitimately not reported if defects are found in their methodology.  As a peer reviewer I have myself caused studies not to be reported by pointing out methodological defects in them

Drug companies are deliberately withholding the results of adverse clinical trials - putting patients at risk, an MP warned yesterday.

Dr Sarah Wollaston, a Tory backbencher, said pharmaceutical companies were burying bad news about the effectiveness and side effects of their medicines.

She is backing a campaign for a change in the law to force drugs firms to publish the details of all trials - good or bad.

The family doctor said such a move would save the NHS millions, because at the moment taxpayers fund medicines which may not be as effective as they claim.

Yesterday Dr Wollaston told MPs: ‘Missing data from clinical trials distorts the evidence and prevents patients and their doctors from making informed decisions about treatment.’

Norman Lamb, the care minister, agreed to meet campaigners to see what more could be done to promote transparency.

Earlier, Dr Wollaston told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the previous government had spent £500million stockpiling Tamiflu despite companies ‘holding back’ full clinical study reports about the drug’s effectiveness.

‘You have to ask yourself why is that being held back,’ she said. ‘This is hugely important. And it’s not just about wasting money. This very much matters.’

She called for all historic data to be published, adding it was ‘vitally important’ for patient safety.  ‘This really is a current issue,’ she said. ‘It affects patient safety and it’s wasting millions. If we could see a release of all the historic data...I think we would have a completely different evidence base for medicine. I think it’s vitally important for patient safety.’

Her campaign is supported by senior figures at the Royal College of GPs, the British Medical Journal, the Lancet and the Cochrane Library, which holds the largest collection of reports on clinical trials.

Other drugs for which campaigners say full information has not been made available include weight loss drugs orlistat and rimonabant.

Critics of the system estimate that around half of all clinical trials are never published in academic journals - and that trials with positive results are twice as likely to be published.

Yesterday in the Commons, Lib Dem care minister Norman Lamb told Dr Wollaston: ‘The Government support transparency in publishing results of clinical trials, and they recognise that more can, and should, be done.

‘Greater transparency can only serve to further public confidence in the safety of medicines. I am happy for my noble Friend Lord Howe or me to meet her and experts to discuss this important issue further.’

Stephen Whitehead, chief executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, denied drugs firms were not being transparent.

‘As the representative body for pharmaceutical companies in the UK, we take the issue that we are not transparent in our undertaking of clinical trials and causing patient harm very seriously,’ he said.

‘There has been much discussion of clinical trial data transparency over recent weeks, but we stand firm in our position that, as one of the most heavily regulated enterprises in the world, we do not seek to mislead or misinform.

‘Regulation of the industry is rigorous. In the UK, if a medicine is to gain a licence, then the complete clinical trial dataset relating to quality, efficacy and safety must be submitted to the regulatory authorities for approval.

‘We realise that there is still work to be done as we continually move toward greater transparency.’


Take a walk if you want to beat dementia

This is just the usual correlational rubbish -- and based on self-report questionnaires at that.  To state the obvious, it is maybe people who were healthier to begin with who did more exercise

Forget the crossword – going for a walk may be better insurance against developing dementia, say researchers. A study has found physical exercise, rather than mind-stretching activities, offers the best protection against excessive shrinking of the brain in later life.

Previous studies have found regular exercise can cut the risk of developing dementia by a third, while others suggest keeping mentally active with crosswords, playing cards and computer work.

Study author Alan Gow, from the University of Edinburgh, said the research provided objective evidence that exercise is critical for brain health.

He added: ‘People in their seventies who participated in more physical exercise, including walking several times a week, had less brain shrinkage and other signs of ageing in the brain than those who were less physically active.  'On the other hand, our study showed no real benefit to participating in mentally and socially stimulating activities on brain size, as seen on MRI scans, over the three-year time frame.’

Altogether, 638 Scottish people born in 1936 who had been involved in a long-term study of ageing took part in the research.

They were asked to fill in questionnaires aged 70 and were given MRI scans at 73.  They gave details about their exercise habits, ranging from moving only in connection with household chores to keeping fit with heavy exercise or playing competitive sports several times per week.  They also recorded any socially and mentally stimulating activities they did.

The study, published in the journal Neurology, found that after three years those doing more exercise had less brain shrinkage than those who exercised minimally.  They also had larger volumes of grey matter in the brain, showing that fewer brain cells had died.

Professor James Goodwin, head of research at Age UK, which supported the study, said: ‘This research reemphasises that it really is never too late to benefit from exercise, so whether it’s a brisk walk to the shops, gardening or competing in a fun run it is crucial that, those of us who can, get active as we grow older.’

Dr Simon Ridley, head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: ‘While we can’t say that exercise is the causal factor in this study, we do know that exercise in middle age can lower the risk of dementia later in life.’


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Organic fruit and vegetables are no better for children, pediatricians claim

Organic fruits and vegetables are not necessarily safer or more nutritious than conventional foods, a leading pediatricians group has claimed.

Parents who want to reduce their kids' exposure to pesticides may seek out organic produce, but science has not proven that eating pesticide-free food makes people healthier, the American Academy of Pediatrics said.

'Theoretically there could be negative effects, especially in young children with growing brains,' said Dr. Janet Silverstein, a co-author on the report.

Yet Silverstein, a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of Florida in Gainesville, added that rigorous scientific evidence is lacking.  'We just can't say for certain that organics is better without long-term controlled studies,' she said.

The report was published online on Monday in Pediatrics and echoes a Stanford University study released last month.

That research concluded that while eating organic fruits and vegetables can reduce pesticide exposure, the amount measured in conventionally grown produce was within safety limits.

Since organic foods tend to be costlier, a good strategy for penny-pinching parents concerned about pesticides is to buy only organic versions of foods with the most pesticide residue – including apples, peaches, strawberries and celery, Silverstein said.

But the pediatricians group says higher prices on organic foods might lead some parents to buy fewer fruits and vegetables over all.

They fear this is not a good strategy since both have health benefits including reducing risks for obesity, heart disease and some cancers.

Parents should aim to provide their families a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whether organic or not, along with plenty of whole grains and low-fat or fat-free dairy products, the report says.


Republicans Move to Toss Out Michelle Obama’s Skimpy School Lunch Menu

Congressional Republicans are taking action against Michelle Obama’s school lunch menu, which was implemented by the USDA in August.

The modifications to the standards have left students hungry and dissatisfied with their lunch options, according to reports conducted throughout the nation. has reported about students protesting, a cafeteria employee saying she and her colleagues are barred from serving seconds and forced to throw away extra food, and the National Education Association stating schools should use tactics to “creatively engage and educate students” on the new requirements.

The Hill reported that Congressional Republicans are asking what U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is doing to fix the problem his department has created. Apparently his solution of having students eat snacks isn’t enough.

"[T]here remains great concern with the amount of food waste generated at school cafeterias, much of it brought on by requiring students to take fruits and vegetables rather than simply offer them," Reps. John Kline (R-Minn.), Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) and Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) told USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack in a letter sent Thursday, The Hill reported.

"This is a waste of federal, state and local funds and is contrary to the law's goal of feeding as many low-income and hungry children as possible," they wrote. "Once again, we are aware USDA has attempted to address this situation by allowing greater choice in reimbursable meals, but students should not have to take additional food if they have no intention of eating it."

The response from some schools is to install “trash cams” to watch students throwing food away. So instead of changing the rules that aren’t working, they’re going to treat students like prisoners under surveillance.

Congressman Steve King (R-IA) has even introduced the “No Hungry Kids Act,” which would repeal the new standards and end the controversy.

As the controversy grows, Mitt Romney’s campaign has remained silent on the issue. Why?


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

New IVF screening can turn fertility clock back 10 years by  picking good embryos

This seems to imply that chromosomal count is the major reason for failure to implant.  I would have thought that the causes were more multifarious than that

An IVF process that could give a woman in her early forties the same chance of becoming pregnant as a 32-year-old has been developed by scientists.

They say the screening treatment could boost a 42-year-old’s odds of having a baby from 13 per cent to  60 per cent.

It works by picking only the embryos most likely to create a healthy foetus, slashing the odds of miscarriage.

Crucially, it also involves the embryos being frozen for at least a month after IVF to allow the woman’s reproductive organs to return to normal.

Scientists believe that the powerful fertility-boosting drugs given during IVF can harm the embryo if it is put into the womb too soon.

A woman aged 40 to 42 typically has a low chance of becoming pregnant with IVF and is unlikely to conceive naturally.

But US researchers from Colorado will today tell the American Society for Reproductive Medicine conference in San Diego, California, how they have boosted success rates to 60 per cent.

Patients will pay £2,000 for the test, on top of a cycle of IVF costing £3,000 to £4,000 a course. The process has already been used on 1,200 women in the US.

But although some British clinics have the technology to offer it now, many are concerned about the effects of freezing the embryo. Others believe women will be unwilling to pay the extra cost.

The US scientists claim their procedure is the most advanced of several being developed to boost pregnancy odds, and is the only one to have been through rigorous trials that have all shown the same high success rates. Called comprehensive chromosome screening with vitrification, it involves taking a few cells from a blastocyst – an embryo just five or six days old.

An ideal blastocyst has 46 chromosomes – 23 each from the sperm and the egg. The wrong chromosome count reduces the odds of pregnancy – or ‘implantation’ – and raises the risk of miscarriage. Only if the cells have 46 chromosomes is the embryo frozen.

Some women will not have good enough embryos and will never become pregnant no matter how many times they have IVF. The scientists say the screening could spare them the heartache of further costly treatments.

Dr Mandy Katz-Jaffe, from the Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine, said: ‘What we’ve been able to show is that a woman aged 38 to 42, if she has a blastocyst with a normal number of chromosomes, her chances of implantation are independent of her age. So she has the same chances of implantation – at 60 per cent – as a woman who is 32.’

Oxford academic Dr Dagan Wells, who helped develop the process, said freezing the embryo, known as cryopreservation, not only boosted the chances of pregnancy but produced healthier babies. He added: ‘The birth weight of the babies is essentially the same as babies conceived naturally, whereas embryos produced by IVF and transferred immediately, without cryopreservation, have a tendency to be of lower weight.’

But Stuart Lavery, a consultant gynaecologist at the Hammersmith Hospital in London and member of the British Fertility Society, said: ‘It’s controversial. To put an embryo through the freeze and a thaw is a bit of an insult. It’s a shock, and sometimes it will kill a few cells.’


Australia:  Experts concerned about the amount of fizzy drink we're consuming

And exactly what business is it of "experts"?

AUSTRALIANS are swilling a staggering 100 litres of soft drink a head each year - prompting calls for the fizz to be banned from home fridges.

Dentists say children as young as six are having rotten baby teeth pulled out after substituting water with sugary and highly acidic soft drinks.  Adult addicts downing as much as six bottles or cans a day are being left with mouths full of fillings and root canal work.

Soft-drink consumption has bubbled from an average 65 litres in the early 1970s to about 100 litres today, Australian Bureau of Statistics and Australian Beverage Council figures show.  That equates to 267 standard cans a year.

Dr Harleen Kumar, of Smile Solutions in Melbourne, said some young patients had up to four glasses daily.

The problem tended to be worse with teenagers.  "In my opinion, soft drink should be for special occasions only such as birthdays and going out. I say to adults to ban it from the fridge," she said.  "I treated one child who was decay-free and then started drinking a can of soft drink a day. He came back a year later with 20 cavities."

The industry says consumption is slowing after peaking in the 1990s.

Nutritionist Dr Rosemary Stanton said sugar-sweetened drinks pumped in calories without giving people a feeling of fullness.

Draft national dietary guidelines advised limiting added-sugar drinks, she said.

Australian Beverage Council chief executive officer Geoff Parker said soft drinks had been unfairly "demonised" in the obesity debate.

One in three soft drinks sold were diet versions with artificial sweeteners and no calories.

Dr Stanton said artificial sweeteners still eroded tooth enamel and maintained a sweet taste habit.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Kid Suspended from School After Mom Packs "alternative" drink in His Lunchbox

A school in Newport Beach, California—where you'd think they would know better—suspended an elementary school kid for the beverage his mommy packed in his lunch bag.

It was kombucha, a fermented drink made with tea and sugar that can contain trace amounts of alcohol. The increasingly popular beverage made headlines in 2011 when it (supposedly) caused a false positive on Lindsay Lohan's court-mandated blood alcohol testing. But the typical drinker isn't a blond alkie. Kombucha is a home brew favorite with the seitan-and-seaweed set, thanks to the a host of (unverified) health benefits some believe confers.

The California kid originally got fingered for the container his mom packed the tea in: a glass bottle protected by a foam sleeve. (Aficionados say the acidic tea shouldn't be packed in plastic or metal.) But when school officials found out what was inside the verboten receptacle, they freaked out. The kid spent the whole day in the school office. At one point they called in a police officer. The vice principal suggested that the kid may be required to transfer schools and tried to enroll him in alcohol abuse counseling course aimed at teens. Then the infraction was reported to the school district and the kid was suspended for 5 days.

The kid's mom got wind of what was going on and wound up getting the suspension revoked, but it's on his record and the school district may yet choose to take action.

It doesn't matter whether the tea is healthy or not, of course. Nor does it matter if I think it's a little bit gross. Just as with raw milk, the point it that people should be able to drink what they want—and make choices for their kids—without intervention by the cops, for crying out loud.


Children who suffer brain injuries are more likely to become criminals later in life

No surprise  -- but taking a survey of prisoners is naive

Young people who sustain brain injuries are more likely to commit crimes and end up in prison, new research suggests.  Injuries caused by trauma to the head can cause maturing brains to 'misfire', affecting judgement and the ability to control impulses.

The study, from the University of Exeter, calls for greater monitoring and treatment to prevent later problems.

Its findings echo a separate report by the Children’s Commissioner for England on the impact of injuries on maturing brains and the social consequences.

In the new report, Repairing Shattered Lives, Professor Huw Williams from the University of Exeter’s Centre for Clinical Neuropsychology Research, describes traumatic brain injury as a 'silent epidemic'.

It is said to occur most frequently among children and young people who have fallen over or been playing sport, as well as those involved in fights or road accidents.

The consequences can include loss of memory, with the report citing international research which indicates the level of brain injuries among offenders is much higher than in the general population.

A survey of 200 adult male prisoners in Britain found 60 per cent claimed to have suffered a head injury, the report notes.

It also acknowledges there may be underlying risk factors for brain injury and offending behaviour but says improving treatment and introducing screening for young offenders would deliver significant benefits in terms of reducing crime and saving public money.

Professor Williams said: 'The young brain, being a work in progress, is prone to "risk taking". And so it is more vulnerable to getting injured in the first place, and suffering subtle to more severe problems in attention, concentration and managing one’s mood and behaviour.'

He added that brain injury is rarely considered by criminal justice professionals when assessing the rehabilitative needs of an offender.

'Yet brain injury has been shown to be a condition that may increase the risk of offending, and it is also a strong "marker" for other key factors that indicate risk for offending,' he said.

The report from the Children’s Commissioner is based on a review of futher published evidence from the University of Exeter and the University of Birmingham.

It says a large number of young people in custody in England tend to have a significant degree of neurodevelopmental disorders compared to the general population.

This could lead to communication and learning difficulties and emotional and behavioural problems, it says.

Many young offenders are said to have a reading age below that of criminal responsibility, which is aged 10 in England and Wales.

Maggie Atkinson, Children’s Commissioner for England, has called on government, the judiciary and others in the youth justice system to identify neurodevelopmental conditions in young people more rapidly.

She said: 'Our failure to identify [these] disorders and put in place measures to prevent young people with such conditions from offending is a tragedy.

'It affects the victims of their crimes, the children themselves, their families, the services seeking to change offenders’ lives for the better, and wider society.

'Although children who have neurodevelopmental disorders and/or who have suffered brain injuries may know the difference between right and wrong, they may not understand the consequences of their actions, the processes they then go through in courts or custody, nor have the means to address their behaviour to avoid reoffending.'


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Diets high in potatoes and sugar may raise the risk of Alzheimer's

Rosebud is good at speculation but is no critical thinker.  Just the fact that the poor are more likely to go to McDonald's could account for the results below.  Poor Rosebud

Older people who eat a diet high in carbohydrates are four times more likely to develop mild cognitive impairment - a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease.

New research from the prestigious Mayo Clinic in America has found the risk is also higher with a diet high in sugar.

On the other hand, proteins and fats appear to offer some protection – people who consumed plenty of them are less likely to suffer cognitive decline.

Not everyone with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) develops Alzheimer's disease, but many do, said lead author Rosebud Roberts, a professor in the department of epidemiology at the Mayo Clinic.


MCI is defined as memory loss apparent to the individual and those around them, but with an absence of other dementia symptoms such as changes in personality and mood.

There are currently 800,000 people with dementia in the UK and 60,000 deaths a year are directly attributable to it, according to the Alzheimer’s Society. It’s estimated around six per cent of us will develop MCI.

The Mayo Clinic research tracked 1,230 people ages 70 to 89 and asked them to provide information on what they ate the previous year.

Among that group, only the 940 people who showed no signs of cognitive impairment were asked to return for follow-ups every 15 months.

By the study's fourth year, 200 of the 940 were beginning to show mild cognitive impairment - problems with memory, language, thinking and judgment.

Compared with the 20 per cent of people with the lowest carbohydrate consumption, the 20 per with the highest had a 3.68 times greater risk of MCI, the study found.

‘If we can stop people from developing MCI, we hope we can stop people from developing dementia. Once you hit the dementia stage, it's irreversible,’ Professor Roberts told USA Today.


Cellphones CAN cause brain tumours, Italian court rules in landmark case

It appears that they listened to "experts" rather than the scientific evidence.  Like anything popular, cellphones will alwayd be demonized by elitists

A court has ruled that mobile phones can give you cancer in a landmark case that could open the gates for other victims to take legal action.

Businessman Innocente Marcolini, 60, was diagnosed with a brain tumour after using his mobile phone at work for up to six hours a day for 12 years.

Italy's Supreme Court found that there was a 'causal link' between his phone use and his illness.

Experts now predict a barrage of legal claims by victims who believe their own illness was caused by their use of mobile phones.

Mr Marcolini told The Sun newspaper: 'This is significant for very many people. I wanted this problem to become public because many people still do not know the risks.

'I was on the phone, usually the mobile, for at least five or six hours every day at work. I wanted it recognised that there was a link between my illness and the use of mobile and cordless phones.   'Parents need to know their children are at risk of this illness.'

Oncologist and professor of environmental mutagenesis Angelo Gino Levis and neurosurgeon Dr Giuseppe Grasso gave evidence supporting Mr Marcolini's claim.

They argued that mobile and cordless phones emit electromagnetic radiation causing damage to cells and increasing the risk of tumours. But they added that many tumours don't appear for 15 years making short-term studies on mobile phone use redundant.

The jury is still out, however, for many scientists who claim it is still unknown what, if any, link there is between mobiles and brain tumours.

Earlier on this month, a Danish study on more than 358,000 mobile users over 18-years-old found that those who used mobile phones for 10 years or more were no more at risk than those who never used them.

Researchers led by the Institute of Cancer Epidemiology in Copenhagen found cancer rates in the central nervous system were almost the same in both long-term mobile phone users and non-users.

But other scientists disagreed, saying the Danish study excluded business users and included as non-users people who began using mobiles later on.

Denis Henshaw, Emeritus Professor of Human Radiation Effects, Bristol University said the study was 'worthless', and the researchers themselves admitted non-users may have been misclassified which would bias the findings.

He said: 'This seriously flawed study misleads the public and decision makers about the safety of mobile phone use.'

Professor Henshaw has previously advocated cigarette-style warnings on mobile phone packets and urges more independent research.

He said: 'Vast numbers of people are using mobile phones and they could be a time bomb of health problems - not just brain tumours, but also fertility, which would be a serious public health issue.

'The health effects of smoking alcohol and air pollution are well known and well talked about, and it's entirely reasonable we should be openly discussing the evidence for this, but it is not happening.  'We want to close the door before the horse has bolted.'

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) rang alarm bells last year when it classified mobile phones as 'possibly carginogenic'.

In April, The Children with Cancer conference highlighted figures published by the Office of National Statistics, which showed a 50 per cent increase in frontal and temporal lobe tumours between 1999 and 2009.

The ONS figures showed that the incident rate has risen from two to three per 100,000 people since 1999, while figures from Bordeaux Segalen University showed a one to two per cent annual increase in brain cancers in children.

But earlier this year another study by Manchester University researchers found no statistically significant change in rates of newly diagnosed brain cancers in England between 1998 and 2007 - saying it was unlikely 'we are on the forefront of a brain cancer epidemic'.


Saturday, October 20, 2012

A deadly outbreak of misinformation

* Compounding pharmacies: heroes or outlaws? – NBC News

* Compounding pharmacies highlight need for government to regulate business – Forbes

* Meningitis outbreak sheds light on compounding drugs and lack of regulation – Fox News

These alarming headlines refer to the deadly fungal meningitis outbreak allegedly traced to contaminated prescription injections used to treat back pain. Not surprisingly, the media is ignoring pertinent facts of the case while scaring the public into believing that greater FDA regulation is necessary to protect us from small-scale pharmacists who “concoct” poisonous toxins. Yet the demands for regulation are unwarranted, based on fearful emotion rather than facts. Upon inspecting the statements from both the CDC and FDA, one discovers a startling series of glaring omissions and cover-ups. First, there may not be an outbreak of fungal meningitis. Second, the alleged cases of fungal meningitis have not been conclusively linked to the implicated pharmacy, which, thanks to fear-mongering, is now permanently out of business.

No evidence of an outbreak

“Meningitis” refers to inflammation of the meninges, the protective membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis may result from microbial infections (bacteria, viruses, fungi, or eukaryotic parasites), or from non-infectious immunodeficiency related to cancer and anti-inflammatory medicines. The condition is serious and can be life-threatening due to the proximity between the meninges and the central nervous system.

Since late September, 200 cases of illness and 15 deaths spanning 13 states have been attributed to methylprednisolone acetate, a steroidal injection packaged by New England Compounding Center. An additional 13,000 people are claimed to be at risk of exposure. Accordingly, regulators recalled and confiscated all 1,200 products from this facility and shut down the company for investigation.

The first reported case of fungal meningitis was detected in a patient in Tennessee, whose cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) tested positive for Aspergillus fumigatus mold 46 days after receiving a steroid injection. Shortly thereafter, when eight other patients displayed meningitis-like symptoms, the media began reporting a fungal meningitis “outbreak.”

But according to the CDC’s own Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the investigation “had identified an additional eight patients with clinically diagnosed, culture-negative meningitis: seven in Tennessee and one in North Carolina.” Culture-negative means that microorganisms were not detected in the patient samples; the patients were not conclusively infected with mold!

But at this point the meningitis scare had taken off, and the powers-that-be needed an alternative means of proving that the outbreak was real. To assign the diagnosis, “Clinical meningitis was defined as having one or more symptoms (e.g., headache, fever, stiff neck, or photophobia)and CSF pleocytosis (more than five white blood cells per ┬ÁL, adjusting for presence of red blood cells), regardless of CSF protein and glucose levels.”

Remarkably, the patients’ CSF lab results were assessed using reference ranges in opposition to the government’s own diagnostic criteria for fungal meningitis.

First, fungal meningitis presents with a marked increase in lymphocytes, the type of white blood cells involved in our adaptive (memory) immune response. In contrast, bacterial meningitis presents with a marked increase in neutrophils, the type of white blood cells involved in phagocytosis, or the consumption and destruction of bacteria as part of the innate immune response. Strikingly, neutrophils do not interact with Aspergillus, the mold implicated in the outbreak. The patients sampled in the alleged outbreak showed increased neutrophils, not lymphocytes, nearly excluding the diagnosis of fungal meningitis.

Second, the CSF of true fungal meningitis patients shows a decrease in glucose levels (less than 40 mg/dL). In contrast, the patients sampled in the alleged outbreak display glucose levels ranging up to 121 mg/dL. As glucose levels in CSF are less than 2/3 of the concentration present in blood, these patients are extremely diabetic and are thus at high risk for various health ailments, including the primary symptoms used to clinically assess meningitis: headaches, stroke, and neuropathy.

Third, according to the same CDC report, “As of October 10, evidence of a fungal infection had been found in 26 (37%) patients by culture, histopathology, or polymerase chain reaction. The fungal species had been identified in 14 patients; Exserohilum spp. was identified in 13, and Aspergillus fumigatus was identified in one patient.” Only 1/3 of the cases are conclusively related to a fungal infection, and now two unrelated species are identified as the cause.

Finally, the CDC is unsure whether this “outbreak” represents a greater number of patients than usual. The October 4th CDC telebriefing states:

JESSICA BLISS [reporter]: You mentioned that fungal meningitis is quite rare. I wondered if you could quantify that at all if you could give us an idea the past incidents in the United States on a year-by-year basis for fungal meningitis.

BENJAMIN PARK [CDC]: Fungal meningitis is not a reportable condition so we don't know how often it occurs.

The CDC acknowledges that the fungal species implicated in infection are abundant in soil—“particularly in the Midwest near the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.” (Note that Tennessee and Michigan have the greatest number of cases supposedly resulting from the medicine contamination.) The CDC also states, “You may also get fungal meningitis after taking medications that weaken your immune system. Examples of these medications include steroids (such as prednisone)…”

Although every illness should be treated with caution, there is currently little evidence that fungal meningitis is a public health crisis. Rather, it is primarily affecting Midwestern elderly diabetic patients taking immunosuppressants—the very population who is at risk from fungal spores naturally present in our environment.

More here

Do you want a consumer controlled FDA?

If you and your doctor disobey FDA dictates both of you will be harmed.      Your doctor will be fined. He may lose his practice and be imprisoned.      You risk danger too. Try to import treatments of which the FDA disapproves and you too could be jailed. Resist this and you will suffer violence. You may even be killed.

Is this a service? Is it moral?

We say no. We uphold something called the Zero Aggression Principle (ZAP) . . .  The State must not threaten or initiate violence against people. Violence must be defensive only.

Initiating violence is inherently criminal.  We want to end FDA criminality. The letter to Congress for our FDA campaign shows how . . .

Make the FDA advisory, not mandatory.  This easy change would civilize the FDA.      It would place the FDA on the same basis as Underwriters Laboratory.  If drug companies, doctors, and patients value the FDA’s seal of approval then the FDA will prosper, just like Underwriters Laboratory does.

This is a non-criminal, consumer controlled approach to providing governmental services. It points the way to the future . . .

 *   We must Deny Consent for state criminality.

 *   We must force The State to obey the Zero Aggression Principle.

*    We must demote the political state in favor of consumer controlled government.

If you agree, please send Congress a letter saying so.  You can borrow from the personal comments I included in my letter to Congress . . .

The drug Metformin is a perfect example of why the FDA must lose its power to coerce. Metformin treats diabetes and metabolic syndrome. It also appears to have youth preserving powers. But . .

The FDA denied this drug to Americans until 1994, even though it was approved for use in Europe as long ago as 1958!

That’s 36 years of unneeded suffering and death caused by the FDA’s violence based monopoly.

This is why I consider the mandatory FDA to be a criminal organization. I deny my consent to this criminality. Fix it. Make the FDA voluntary.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Trivial multivitamin benefits 

The effect is far too small to support any causal inferences

Middle-aged men who took vitamins were 8 per cent less likely to develop cancer of any kind

Regular use for more than a decade cuts men’s chances of developing the disease by 8 per cent, say researchers.

They cannot identify a single vitamin or combination that works, but claim the benefit comes from a broad combination of low dose vitamins.

The US study involved only men so the same effect cannot be assumed for women, but experts believe it is likely to be similar.

Almost 15,000 doctors took part in the survey at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in Boston, and Harvard Medical School.

It is significant as the first trial of its kind, said Michael Gaziano, chief of the Boston hospital’s ‘division of ageing’. He said: ‘Despite the fact that more than one-third of Americans take multivitamins, their long-term effects were unknown until now.’

Millions of Britons buy multivitamins in the hope that they might prevent illness. However, there is little evidence for such benefits and some studies on high-dose vitamins have shown harm.

The latest trial included 14,641 male physicians, initially aged 50 years or older, including 1,312 men with a history of cancer at the start of the study in 1997, with treatment and follow-up through to 2011. Participants received a daily multivitamin or dummy pill and were followed for an average of 11.2 years.

Analysis of the data found men taking a multivitamin had a modest 8 per cent reduction in total cancer incidence, including colorectal, lung and bladder. There was no statistically significant effect on deaths from cancer.

The daily pill was a brand called Centrum Silver for the over 50s containing vitamins A, C, D, E, B6 and B12, calcium, selenium and zinc.

The study was published online in the Journal of the American Medical Association to coincide with its presentation at the Annual American Association for Cancer Research’s Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research meeting.

The 'modest' reduction is thought to mirror the benefits of eating a healthy diet high in fruit and vegetables

Dr Gaziano said many take multivitamins daily because it might ward off cancer, despite the paucity of evidence.

He said there was speculation about the role of individual vitamins and minerals in cancer prevention, but it was difficult to identify any single mechanism through which components of their tested multivitamin may have reduced cancer risk.

‘Although the main reason to take multivitamins is to prevent nutritional deficiency, these data provide support for the potential use of multivitamin supplements in the prevention of cancer in middle-aged and older men,’ said the study.


Starch kidney failure risk

Another failure of medical fashion

Intensive care doctors should reconsider using a starch fluid to resuscitate patients because it results in higher rates of kidney failure than the alternative saline, researchers say.

In a study of 7000 patients treated in 32 Australian hospitals, researchers from the University of New South Wales' George Institute for Global Health found starch had no clinical benefits over saline.

But patients given starch had a 21 per cent higher risk of kidney failure than those given saline, according to the study published today in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Lead researcher Simon Finfer said starch was widely used overseas and increasingly in Australia, where it was first registered for use in 2008.

Doctors use fluids as a first-line treatment to maintain blood pressure and deliver oxygen and other nutrients to vital organs in acutely ill patients.

Professor Finfer said starch was marketed as being more effective than saline or other fluids on the basis of small studies of its short-term effect on blood pressure and heart rate. But he said little had previously been known about longer-term outcomes in a large patient sample.

The study showed 7 per cent of patients given starch developed kidney failure, compared with 5.8 per cent of those given saline, but found no higher risk of death within three months.

"With patients who are critically ill, there will be a proportion who will develop kidney failure as part of that illness," he said. "But what this tells us is that if we use starch as opposed to saline to resuscitate these patients, more of them will develop kidney failure and need dialysis.

"Approximately 100,000 patients are treated in intensive care units in Australia each year. If everybody got starch, it might result in an extra thousand people having kidney failure."

Professor Finfer said the findings reinforced concerns "that starch is deposited in the kidney and other tissues and might cause kidney injury in that fashion".

He expected doctors worldwide would change their practice in light of the study.

The Austin, Frankston and Western hospitals in Melbourne and the Royal North Shore, St George and Royal Prince Alfred hospitals in Sydney participated in the study.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

The brain map that shows the differences in the brains of autistic people can explain their difficulties - and also shed light on their unique talents

I am pleased to see noted below something I have long drawn attention to:  That autistic people tend to have larger heads and hence presumably larger underlying brains.  And the fact that the enlargement is not uniform across brain areas  -- and hence may be random -- explains why each autistic person has a different pattern of abilities

Scientists investigating the brain of one of the world's most famous autistic people have found several features that can explain her unique talents.

Temple Grandin, professor of animal sciences at Colorado State University, is what is known as a 'savant' - someone who shows some of the social deficits of autism yet also has some exceptional abilities.

A tireless campaigner for autism research and awareness she is known for her exceptional non-verbal intelligence, spatial reasoning, sharp visual acuity and an uncanny gift for spelling and reading.

The subject of an award-winning eponymous-titled biographical film starring Claire Danes, Professor Grandin was also in 2010 listed in the Time 100 list of the 100 most influential people in the world in the 'Heroes' category.

In a bid to understand her cognitive gifts, and the accompanying weaknesses, a group of neuroscientists gave the professor a series of psychological tests and scanned her brain using several imaging processes.

Jason Cooperrider, a graduate student at the University of Utah who presented the work at the Society for Neuroscience's annual meeting, explained their aims to the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative.

'We asked how might brain structure and function be related to both outstanding ability and outstanding disability — the autism — within the same brain,' he said.

The professor received exceptionally high scores on several psychological assessments, including tests of reading, spelling and spatial reasoning.

She achieved a phenomenal perfect score on Raven's Coloured Progressive Matrices test, which assesses non-verbal reasoning. Her weakest skill was found to be verbal working memory.

Scans showed Professor Grandin's brain is significantly larger than that of three matched neurotypical control subjects - something seen in some children with autism but which scientists do not yet understand.

Her lateral ventricles - chambers which hold cerebrospinal fluid - are different in size, with the left much much larger than the right, a finding Mr Cooperrider described as 'quite striking'.

On both sides, the professor possesses unusually large amygdala, sectors of the brain which are part of the limbic system and have been shown to perform a primary role in the processing of memory and emotional reactions.

The researchers also traced white-matter connections in Professor Grandin's brain using diffusion tensor imaging, finding what they dubbed 'enhanced' connections in the left precuneus, a region involved with episodic memory, visuospatial processing, reflections upon self, and aspects of consciousness.

They found she also has enhanced white matter in the left inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus. This region connects the frontal and occipital lobes, which might explain the professor's keen visual acuity, the researchers said.

In keeping with the double-edged nature of Professor Grandin's condition, she also has some weak connections, which the researchers said were defined in part by decreased integrity of brain-tissue fibres.

One weak area was her left inferior frontal gyrus, which includes the famous Broca's area, which has functions linked to speech production and impairment of which can leave brain injury sufferers mute. Professor Grandin's right fusiform gyrus - a brain region involved in facial and body recognition - also had compromised connections.

The findings agreed with the professor's own personal assessments of her abilities. She has previously written how words are, for her, only understood when translated into pictures and described how she finds socialising 'boring'.

She has noted in her autobiographical works that autism affects every aspect of her life.

She has to wear comfortable clothes to counteract her sensory integration dysfunction and has structured her lifestyle to avoid sensory overload.


Skipping breakfast to lose weight makes you fatter - and far more likely to raid the vending machine

More evidence that dieting makes you fat

If you think skipping your morning tea and toast will help you shed a few pounds, you could be mistaken.  Researchers claim people who miss breakfast not only eat more for lunch but also crave fatty and sugary foods, putting them at risk of gaining rather than losing weight.

Scientists at Imperial College London scanned the brains of 21 volunteers while they looked at pictures of different foods, such as salads and chocolate.

The volunteers also rated how appealing they found the foods, which ranged from salads and vegetables to calorie-laden chocolates, desserts, cakes, pizzas and burgers.

This was done twice - once after the men and women had eaten breakfast and again on a morning when they hadn’t eaten since the night before.

Afterwards, they were given a pasta lunch and told they could eat as much as they liked.

Those who had missed breakfast ate about 250 calories more - the equivalent of five Jaffa Cakes or a chunky Kit Kat.

They also found the high-calorie foods more tempting, with the chocolate the most appealing food of all, the Society for Neuroscience’s annual conference in New Orleans heard.

This suggests that if they had had a choice of foods for lunch, they would have homed in on the unhealthy ones and so packed away even more calories, said researcher Tony Goldstone.

The MRI scans showed a region called the orbital frontal cortex, which tells the brain how important or tasty a food is, to light up more when breakfast had been skipped.  Thoughts of high-calorie foods made it particularly active.

It is thought that when we skip meals, our gut releases hormones that act on the orbital frontal cortex, priming it to steer our thoughts towards sugary and fatty treats.

While this might make sense in times of famine, when it is essential to get as many calories as possible, when food is plentiful, it could lead to us eating more than is good for us.

Dr Goldstone said: ‘Through the participants’ MRI results and observations of how much they ate at lunch, we found ample evidence that fasting made people hungrier and increased the appeal of high-calorie foods and the amount people ate.

‘Beware of going for long periods without eating because you are going to crave high-calorie foods much more because of changes in how your orbital frontal cortex works.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Six cups of coffee a day 'cuts risk of both womb and prostate cancer'

Here we go again.  The effects observed are too weak to support causal inferences.  And they are just correlations anyway.  Maybe richer people (who are healthier) can afford more coffee, for instance.  Or maybe they are more stressed and so need coffee more --  Or maybe lots of things

Women who drink four to six cups of coffee a day are less likely to suffer from womb cancer, while men who drink this amount are less likely to suffer prostate cancer, according to a study using 117,000 volunteers.

The effects were seen regardless of whether they drank regular or decaffeinated coffee, suggesting the effects are not linked to caffeine.

Although many people limit the amount of coffee they consume because it can cause a spike in blood pressure, recent studies suggest the drink may also offer health benefits.

Regular coffee drinkers also appear to have a lower risk of Type-2 diabetes, gallstones, colon cancer and even Parkinson’s disease.

In the latest research, a team from Harvard University looked at the drinking habits of 67,000 women whose health had been tracked for more than 20 years.

They found those who drank four or more cups a day reduced their risk of endometrial cancer by 25 per cent, compared with those who drank less than one cup a day.

A similar effect was found for decaffeinated coffee, but tea consumption had no impact. The researchers then looked at coffee intake among a group of 50,000 men over a 20-year period.

The results showed that those who drank six or more cups had an 18 per cent lower risk of suffering prostate cancer and a 60 per cent lower risk of developing its most deadly form.

One theory is that coffee may have a beneficial effect on insulin levels. Previous research has linked insulin levels with tumour growth, and coffee may help to limit this effect.

The drink can improve glucose processing and has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, all of which play roles in cancer progression.

The researchers are warning against adding sugar and cream to each cup because the extra calories could offset benefits gained from the coffee.

Womb cancer is diagnosed in 8,000 women a year in the UK, while prostate cancer is diagnosed in about 40,000 men.


Cure or no cure, we’ll keep taking the tablets

Should echinacea fail against the common cold, a new 'remedy’ will not be far away

By Theodore Dalrymple

A study by the Common Cold Centre in Cardiff has found that the popular cold remedy echinacea can not only prevent colds but also shorten them once they start. If you take three daily doses for four months, your chances of catching a cold and the length of time you spend with it declines by 26 per cent, or 60 per cent if you are particularly susceptible to colds. Whether the benefit is large enough for people to take echinacea three times a day for four months is something for each person to decide: no answer is right for everyone.

Actually, these findings are not unexpected. A study from the University of Connecticut published in 2007 found that people who took a preparation of echinacea reduced the number of colds from which they suffered by 60 per cent; and if they did catch cold, the illness lasted 1.4 days fewer than if they did not take the preparation. It is only honest to point out, however, that other trials – for example, one led by a researcher from the University of Virginia in 2005 – have been negative. As is almost always the case, further research is needed.

If it turns out that echinacea really is valuable both as a prophylactic and a treatment, there will be rejoicing, not to say crowing, among enthusiasts of alternative medicine, for it will vindicate folk wisdom as a source of medical knowledge. Echinacea is extracted from a North American genus of plants of that name. Apparently, it was used by native Indians as a cure for a variety of conditions including snakebite. According to Wallace Sampson, a physician at Stanford University with an interest in alternative medicines, echinacea was first marketed for use in colds by a Swiss herbalist who had been told (mistakenly) that American Indians took it for that purpose.

In fact, several medical advances have resulted from doctors conducting experiments on folk remedies about which they had heard. William Withering discovered the use of digitalis in this way, and Edward Jenner the use of cowpox innoculation – which eventually led to the elimination of smallpox. But it is science that is required to distinguish between folk wisdom and folk superstition.

Why can’t we be immunised against colds as we can against, say, measles or yellow fever? Colds are caused by hundreds of strains of viruses, and immunity against one strain does not confer immunity against the others – which is why, according to American immunological data, elementary schoolchildren suffer from three to eight colds a year, and adults two or three.

Let us suppose for a moment that further scientific tests on echinacea show that, contrary to the hopes raised, it really does not work either to prevent or to cure colds: will that be the end of its career?

By no means. We each – man, woman and child – spend about £10 a year on cold remedies, most of which we know perfectly well will not shorten the duration of our colds (which, incidentally, are responsible for about 50 per cent of time lost at work through illness, so that colds are more economically than medically significant). But we are temperamentally incapable of saying to ourselves when ill, “There is nothing I can do about it”, and some of the remedies give us symptomatic relief, if only by making us drowsy.

About a third of people in Britain take vitamin supplements, too; we feel, in our bones rather than with our minds, that there must be a diet that will keep us healthy and free of disease. In my childhood I was given various disgusting concoctions of hot milk and honey for my colds. These days I prefer pills – provided that I can’t taste them.

The desire to take medicine, said the great 19th-century physician Sir William Osler, is what best distinguishes man from the animals. This is despite the fact that his near contemporary, Oliver Wendell Holmes, said that if the whole of the pharmacopoiea were thrown into the sea, it would be better for humanity but worse for the fish. The mere uselessness, or even harmfulness, of medicine has never prevented mankind from taking it.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Medical junk science: Canned veggies may make kids fat

The war on BPA continues -- from the usual shoddy base

Can feeding your child canned soup and vegetables make her fat? According to study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), it just might — but only if your child is white. That’s the latest junk science “finding” from yet another study designed to condemn the chemical bisphenol A (BPA). Despite obvious flaws with the study and the implausibility of its findings, newspapers around the nation, news websites, blogs and others continue to declare that there is “more evidence” that BPA poses a health problem.

You would think that reputable medical journals like JAMA would focus on science that truly adds insight and value about medical research and public health. After all, the group that publishes it — the American Medical Association – states on its website that its mission is “[t]o promote the art and science of medicine and the betterment of public health.” But this study really doesn’t do that. It’s more akin  to political science than it is to medical research and may harm public health if it leads to bans on food packaging that uses BPA resins. BPA bans are used to prevent the development of deadly pathogens in our food, and there are no good substitutes.

Surely, all publications have a bias toward studies that come up with positive associations even if dozens of others fail to find associations. Positive findings are more interesting news, even though this bias can generate false impressions as to the state of research. But that alone does not explain why JAMA published this study, which, much like a recent study on BPA and heart disease, is so flawed that no one — let alone a serious medical journal — should take it seriously.

The JAMA obesity study used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) program to assess national health trends. Each year, CDC collects data from a different group of volunteers (rather than follow the same group), conducting physical exams and interviews. From this database, the JAMA study pulled data related to BPA levels found in urine and body fat measurements for 2,838 subjects aged 6- through 19 years old. It found that for some participants high BPA levels were associated with higher body fat, which it concluded suggests that BPA contributes to obesity.

Like the heart disease study, the JAMA obesity study is seriously flawed for two main reasons. First, it relies on “spot sampling” of BPA — measuring exposure via one urine sample per subject. The fact is BPA levels in urine change practically hourly, which means that one-time measurements tell us nothing! Second, it largely ignores the fact that the human body quickly metabolizes BPA before it can have any health impacts. For more background on these two issues, see my blog post on BPA and coronary heart disease.

Those two facts alone are reason enough for JAMA to reject publication of this study, but there are many other reasons why JAMA should have refused publication. First, the association they found — if it means anything at all — may simply suggest that children who eat processed foods (much of which is packaged in containers that use BPA resins) tend to be overweight. In fact, processed foods contain greater calories than do fresh produce. The study notes:
    Obese children may drink more canned or bottled beverages, or eat more canned food, and thus have higher urinary BPA levels. Similarly, although we adjusted for excessive caloric intake and television watching—lifestyle-associated risks for childhood obesity—it may be those sedentary children consume foods high in BPA.

Moreover, the association they found was not even particularly compelling or consistent. Specifically, it found that BPA is associated with higher body fat among non-Hispanic white children, but not for Hispanic or black children. Unless there is some compelling and plausible body of research to suggest why this is the case, such disparate results suggest that the association was little more than a statistical accident.

The study authors themselves admit up front in the “abstract” that they have not really discovered anything new. They note:
    BPA exposure is plausibly linked to childhood obesity, but evidence is lacking to date.

In the “discussion” section, they note the study’s key flaw:
    If BPA is rapidly and completely excreted, as suggested by the few adult pharmacokinetic studies to date, then a single measurement of urinary BPA concentration would be a poor proxy for long-term exposure.

However, they then enter into an unscientific rationalization to justify drawing conclusions from what is admittedly a “poor proxy”:
    Recent data from adults in NHANES 2003-2004, however, suggest that urinary BPA concentration does not decrease rapidly with fasting time, suggesting that it is stored in fat or other physiologic compartments.

In other words, the JAMA authors rest the validity of their methodology — and ultimately their conclusions — on an existing outside data source that simply “suggests” the human body stores BPA, which is hardly a scientific finding. In fact, the citation they provide for “recent” data goes to a single study from 2004 that also uses NHANES data and that is not very compelling for drawing the conclusions that JAMA authors use it to do.


NYC: Industry sues to block ban on sugary drinks

Soda makers, restaurateurs and other businesses sued Friday to try to block the city's unprecedented move to restrict sales of super-sized, sugary drinks, an effort the city called a coup for public health but the industry views as unfair and undemocratic.

"For the first time, they're telling New Yorkers how much of certain safe and lawful beverages they can drink," said Caroline Starke, a spokeswoman for the business groups, whose complaint also faults the city for making the decision through an unelected board. The groups include the American Beverage Association, the National Restaurant Association, a soft drink workers union and groups representing interests ranging from movie theater owners to Korean-American grocers.

A spokesman for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the regulation's chief champion, called the lawsuit a groundless effort to stop a groundbreaking policy.

"This predictable, yet baseless, lawsuit fortunately will help put an even greater spotlight on the obesity epidemic," said the spokesman, Marc LaVorgna, who noted that the city also won fights over outlawing smoking in bars and offices and forcing fast-food restaurants to list calorie counts on their menus.

The beverage industry hinted it was considering a suit as soon as the city Board of Health approved the regulation last month. The rule would stop restaurants, cafeterias and concession stands from selling soda and other high-calorie drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces. It's set to take effect in March.

Bloomberg has called it a reasonable way to fight an obesity problem that takes a toll on many New Yorkers' health and city hospitals' budgets.

The measure keeps people from drinking extra calories without thinking, he says. For someone who drinks a soda every day, for example, downing a 16-ounce Coke instead of a 20-ounce one trims 14,600 calories a year, or the equivalent of 70 Hershey bars.

"Nobody is banning anything," the mayor said when the plan passed, noting that someone who wanted a second soda could get one.

The soda makers and sellers say the city is being a nanny-like nag to consumers and imposing an unfair, uneven burden on businesses. Manufacturers will have to get new bottles, and eateries will lose sales to competitors that aren't covered by the rule, they say. A customer who couldn't buy a 20-ounce soda at a pizzeria would be able to get a Big Gulp at a 7-Eleven, for instance, as convenience stores are under different regulations.

"(The rule) unfairly harms small businesses at a time when we can ill afford it," the suit says.

It also says the Bloomberg-appointed health board shouldn't dictate the size of soft drinks. Ten City Council members signed onto a July measure calling on the health board not to approve the rule; a New York Times poll in August showed that six in 10 New Yorkers opposed it.

The city says the board, made up of physicians and other health experts, is exactly the panel to make such decisions. It has held sway over matters ranging from milk inspection in the 1870s to banning lead paint in 1960, the city notes.