Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Cut your sugar intake by HALF: New health warning says limit should be cut to five teaspoons a day over fears it contributes to heart disease

United Nations guidelines! What a joke.  I suppose a small serve of terrorism is also recommended -- or one hour per week of hating Israel

Adults could be advised to halve the amount of sugar in their diets under new guidelines from the World Health Organisation.

Experts are considering lowering the recommended limit of ten teaspoons a day to just five over fears that it is contributing to heart disease, obesity and tooth decay.

Food companies may have to change their products to lower the sugar content, which would be hugely expensive and could prove unpopular with some consumers.

A single can of cola contains ten teaspoons of sugar, a Mars bar has five, a bowl of Coco Pops has about four and there are eight in some ready meals.

The average Briton consumes 12 teaspoons a day, although research has found that some adults in industrialised countries are eating as many as 46 daily.

Philip James, president of the International Association for the Study on Obesity, which works with the WHO, described the suggestion as ‘political dynamite’.  ‘The food industry will do everything in their power to undermine this,’ he said.

The guidance suggests lowering the amount of sugar added to food – excluding that which occurs naturally in fruit or starch - from 10 per cent to five per cent of the daily allowance, which is equivalent to five teaspoons.

The policy would almost certainly be adopted by the Department of Health.

Professor Shrinath Reddy, a cardiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health and member of the WHO panel of experts, said: ‘I would agree with the recommendation to reduce it to five per cent.

‘There is overwhelming evidence coming out about sugar-sweetened beverages and other sugar consumption links to obesity, diabetes and even cardiovascular disease.’

The proposals were discussed at a meeting earlier this year after a study by Professor Paula Moynihan, an expert in nutrition and oral health at Newcastle University, highlighted  the danger of sugar to dental health.

‘Part of the problem is that sugary foods and drinks are now staples in many people’s diet in industrialised countries, whereas once they were an occasional treat,’ he said.  ‘We need to reverse this trend.’

The WHO panel will consider the guidance over the coming months before making a final decision.

Sugar Nutrition UK, an industry-funded research body, pointed out that UK manufacturers had been lowering the level of sugar in recent years to make products healthier.

‘There is no data to show that reducing intake below current levels is beneficial to health,’ said a spokesman, who claimed that the guidance was based on studies ‘of very low quality’.

Research three years ago by the Emory School of Medicine in the US found that some adults were eating 46 teaspoons of sugar a day. This included six in a bowl of cereal, 14 for lunch including a slice of pizza and a fizzy drink, and 16 for a ready meal in the evening with another sugary beverage.

Kellogg’s was criticised last year by the Advertising Standards Agency for claiming that high sugar was not linked to obesity.

Its Coco Pops website claimed: ‘A panel of world health experts recently reviewed all the evidence and concluded that a high sugar intake is not related to obesity, or the development of diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure or cancer.

'Nor was it connected to behavioural problems, such as hyperactivity, in children.’


Hidden dangers of essential oils: The frightening truth about natural remedies such as Olbas Oil which can cause heart problems, convulsions and eye ulcers

Reassured by the list of natural-sounding ingredients, parents are happy to sprinkle them on a child's pillow, in their bath or on a tissue.

But paediatric consultant Hester Yorke, who works at a busy central London emergency department, says she has dealt with a string of cases where children and babies have required hospital treatment after drinking or otherwise ingesting harmless-sounding oils.

A doctor has warned of the dangers of children accidentally ingesting products containing essential oils - this photograph shows chemical burns caused by Olbas Oil which show up green under blue light

Dr Yorke, 39, who works at the emergency department at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London, is calling on the manufacturers of such oils to put a child-proof cap on the bottles to reduce the numbers of young - and old - patients needing urgent treatment after misusing the products.

She said: 'In the last five years we have seen at least 38 children, and probably more, who have presented having ingested, put in their eyes or up their nose some kind of essential oil-containing substance.

'These included Olbas Oil, Karvol, room diffuser liquids, liquid air freshener, citronella oil and other aromatherapy oils, and of these 38 children, six had significant clinical findings.'

Dr Yorke said all 38 children were admitted to the ward for observation or required observation for at least six hours.

She said of the six with 'significant' symptoms, two children had corneal ulcers, one had nervous system findings (drowsiness and unsteadiness walking), and three had breathing difficulties.

The consultant, who is so concerned she is keeping a dossier of hospital admissions as a result of accidents with essential oils to strengthen her case for manufacturers, says the chief culprit is eucalyptus oil.  At least 38 patients have been admitted to Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London after accidentally ingesting essential oils

She said: 'Eucalyptus oil is particularly toxic - in Australia, where eucalyptus oil is more widely used, there have been reports of children who have drunk it presenting with convulsions.  'We often see children who have put it into their eyes or nose because the size and shape of the bottle makes it easy to mistake for eye or nose drops.

'And children who put it into their eyes are risking serious corneal damage at worst, and quite significant discomfort at best.'

Children who suffer corneal ulcers will need at least one course of antibiotics dropped directly into the eye, as well as flushing with large quantities of saline solution.

A&E paediatric consultant Dr Hester Yorke has treated scores of children who have ingested essential oils and says parents must be aware of the dangers

Dr Yorke said she'd heard of cases where ingestion of essential oil had caused death, but said she had no direct evidence of it at the A&E department she worked in.

Other side-effects can include breathing problems caused when the drops are put into the nose accidentally.  The oil acts as an irritant, which causes mucosal tissue to become inflamed and a dramatic increase in mucusal secretions.

This can cause vomiting, which in turn can see the oil getting into the lungs.

Dr Yorke says the problems are not confined to young patients.  She said: 'Elderly patients have also been known to put it in their eyes because it's in such a small bottle.  'One elderly patient came in after her carer put it in her nose by mistake thinking it was nose drops.'

And she said the 'natural' image of the oils could lull people into a false sense of security.

'These essential oils are seen as natural products so they are not thought of as medicines and are therefore not stored as medicines,' she said.

'People keep them in the last place they used them, which is often beside the bath or on the shelf by the child's bed.

'Given that if ingested, they have the potential to do really nasty things, I think the ones that are sold medically should be more clearly labelled and should have childproof caps so that a child can't take off the top.

'Kids get put off pretty quickly if they're struggling to take the top off and move on to something else.  'I would also like to see the other commonly sold essential oils coming with a childproof cap too.

'Parents must be warned that these products must treated as drugs, not as nice smelly stuff you put in the bath.'

Parents often use products such as Olbas Oil or eucalyptus oil on sick children - but they can be dangerous

Three-year-old John Oliver, from Fulham, south west London, needed emergency treatment at the Chelsea and Westminster after he opened the bottle of Olbas Oil kept in his bedroom, sipped it and put some in his eye.

His mother, Harriet, flushed out his eye with eye drops before ringing NHS Direct who told her she had to take him straight to A&E.

She said: 'He's my third child so I thought I knew what was dangerous and what wasn't, but I had no idea Olbas Oil could cause problems, and had left it in his bedroom after sprinkling some on his pillow when I put him to bed.

'Later I heard crying from upstairs and when I ran up he told me he'd opened the bottle and put some in his eye and his mouth.'

Mrs Oliver rang NHS Direct as a precaution and was shocked when they offered to send an ambulance, saying her son needed to be seen by a doctor within one hour.

She took him to Chelsea and Westminster where he was seen by Dr Yorke, who said he had to have his eye washed out with two litres of saline solution before being checked to see if there was any corneal damage or residue from the oil.

John also had to wear a heart monitor for several hours to see whether his heart rate would be affected by swallowing the Olbas Oil.

Mrs Oliver said: 'It was all quite shocking and frightening - one minute I'd put him to bed with a blocked nose and the next minute we were in A&E having a  heart monitor strapped to him.

'Having his eye washed out was upsetting as I had to pin him down while the nurse flushed his eye with an enormous bottle of salt water and he screamed and screamed.

'We spent the night on the children's ward so his heart rate could be checked and luckily he was fine, but when I talked to my friends with children, none of them had heard that Olbas Oil could be so dangerous.'

Figures from the Health & Safety Information Centre show that between April 2012 and March this year, 5,432 people were treated as inpatients after accidentally poisoning themselves with substances including essential oils.

A spokesman for Lanes health care, manufacturer of Olbas Oil, said: 'We take this kind of incident very seriously and take on board all suggestions for ways we can improve our products.

'Olbas Oil is a safe and effective medicine when used as instructed and like all medicines must be kept out of sight and reach of children.

'We have emphasised this on the packaging which complies with all the necessary regulations and has been approved by the UK medicines authority (MHRA).'


Monday, December 30, 2013

How 13,000 heart attacks a year could be avoided if we ate two pinches less salt (?)

This is old-fashioned propaganda now.  It takes a while for new findings to be absorbed.  It's just  poorly-based theory below

Lowering our salt intake by just two pinches a day could prevent 13,000 heart attacks and 5,000 strokes, say researchers.

Although the national intake has fallen in recent years, it remains above the recommended maximum of 6g a day, with average consumption at 8.6g.

Excess salt is a major contributor to high blood pressure, leading to heart disease and stroke.

The latest research by a team of scientists at Wageningen University in the Netherlands found nearly 5 per cent of all heart attacks and almost 6 per cent of strokes could be prevented if there was less salt in food products such as ready meals.

The Dutch team worked out how consuming the target of 6g daily would affect our health. They analysed data on average salt intake and took into account previous research that showed the drop in blood pressure levels that could be achieved through eating less.

The researchers then assessed the full impact if everybody complied with the 6g a day limit, says a report published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.  Their findings show roughly one in 20 heart attacks and one in 16 strokes could be completely avoided if processed foods contained reduced levels.

The report said: ‘Substantial health benefits might be achieved when added salt is removed from processed foods and when consumers choose low-salt food alternatives.’

Katharine Jenner, chief executive of the Blood Pressure Association, said the Department of Health’s campaign to reduce salt is saving approximately 8,500 lives a year, but until all food manufacturers and restaurants reduce the amount of salt they add to our food the nation’s health remains at risk.

‘The Department of Health estimates that every 1g reduction in salt intake will save at least 4,147 deaths and £288million to the NHS every year,’ she added.  The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence wants average UK consumption to be slashed to just 3g a day by 2025.


California Regulators Attempt to Kill Sriracha

Why did state regulators shut down the company's sales for a month and push the hot sauce's maker to consider leaving the state?

Last week California health regulators ordered the makers of Sriracha hot sauce to suspend operations for 30 days. The 30-day hold comes despite the fact the product has been on the market for more than three decades and that “no recall has been ordered and no pathogenic bacteria have been found[.]”

The problem, reports the Pasadena Star News, is that Sriracha is a raw food.  “Because Sriracha is not cooked, only mashed and blended, Huy Fong needs to make sure its bottles won’t harbor dangerous bacteria,” writes the Star News.

Aren’t three decades of sales sufficient proof of that fact?

“The regulations outlining this process have been in existence for years,” writes California health department official Anita Gore, in a statement she sent to L.A. Weekly, “but the modified production requirements were established for the firm this year.”

In other words, the state changed the rules of the game.

Gore cites FDA regulations pertaining to acidified foods as a basis for her agency’s action.

And she writes this: “A scheduled process is the process that is adequate for use under conditions of manufacture for a food in achieving and maintaining a food that will not permit the growth of microorganisms having public health significance. It includes control of pH and other critical factors that may be established by a competent process authority.”

What in the name of all that is holy could Gore possibly mean by that?  “We cannot go into further detail about their process,” she explains, “as it is a trade secret and cannot be divulged.”

Thanks to the state-mandated shutdown, there’s now a national Sriracha shortage.

How did this happen? From every indication, Sriracha appears to epitomize the California foodie dream of turning fresh, local ingredients into something wonderful.

An L.A. Times piece on the product earlier this year reported that “each chili is processed within a day of harvesting to ensure peak spiciness.”

Is raw hot sauce like Sriracha some sort of nefarious new invention? Well, no.  The country’s most popular hot sauce, Louisiana’s ubiquitous Tabasco, is also made from raw ingredients, according to its website.

So if hot sauces are made using similar processes in other parts of the country, what's the big deal in California? The answer may lie in the company's increasingly sour relations with regulators.

Sriracha Rooster Sauce is made by Huy Fong Foods of Irwindale, Calif. The company’s name comes from the freighter that company founder David Tran boarded when he fled communist Vietnam. Huy Fong Foods announced its move to Irwindale three years ago. The L.A. Times reported at the time that the move into a new $40 million building would “spice up a bleak lot in Irwindale” that had been vacant for a decade.

The company planned to use the new facility to help ramp up sales fivefold, from $60 million per year to more than $300 million in annual sales.

The Irwindale plant began cranking out hot sauce in summer 2012. But complaints soon followed.

Neighbors said the smell from the plant was too pungent. The city, which had welcomed Huy Fong Foods, soon filed a nuisance lawsuit against the company.

A California judge ruled in October that the company could continue operating. A month later, the judge reversed his decision.

With the welcome mat seemingly no longer to be found in California, word has spread that Huy Fong is looking to leave the state. Rumors of a move to Philadelphia are swirling.

But before the company would consider such a move, they noted they’d want to “first research things like what the health department regulations are regarding acidized foods in Pennsylvania.”

Could Sriracha succeed outside California? Of course it could. The state needs Huy Fong Foods a lot more than the company needs California. After all, the nation’s growing love affair with Sriracha is well documented.

A 2009 N.Y. Times piece elegantly captured the origins and allure of Sriracha, calling it “an American sauce, a polyglot purée with roots in different places and peoples.”

As the Times reported, it had become a staple for everyone from high-end chefs to Walmart shoppers. The humor website The Oatmeal referred to Sriracha as “a delicious blessing flavored with the incandescent glow of a thousand dying suns.” Boing Boing’s Xeni Jardin called it “the beloved ‘cock sauce.’” And frenzied consumers, including food TV celebrity Alton Brown, have been busily hoarding the stuff thanks to California regulators.

I’ve long marveled at California’s status as an unparalleled culinary innovator and agricultural powerhouse, while also lamenting the fact that the state’s uncanny obsession with ever more pervasive and stringent regulations could spell doom for its unrivaled food climate.

Sometimes the state throws out small hints it might not want to strangle each of its businesses in red tape. In October, I cited several such examples in noting that California regulators and lawmakers are “capable not just of recognizing the needless regulatory encumbrances that strict food laws place on its entrepreneurs but also of relieving some of those burdens.”

But then there’s this. And this. And this.

If Sriracha’s founder is forced to move the company outside the state due to nothing more than the baseless fervor of California regulators, then the state’s status as America’s culinary innovator won’t die today. It won't even die tomorrow. But I fear that the word “Sriracha” will be featured prominently in the state’s obituary, alongside the sad news that its pointless death was by its own hand.


Saturday, December 28, 2013

How To Make Sense Of Confusing, New Blood Pressure Advice

If you're confused about the latest recommendations for treating high blood pressure, take heart. Doctors are confused, too.

On Wednesday, a panel of specialists called the Eighth Joint National Committee published guidelines saying that many people over 60 don't need to start taking medications to lower blood pressure until it's above 150/90 millimeters of mercury.

If doctors follow the advice, they'll be less likely to prescribe blood pressure drugs to people at milder risk for heart problems.

Why? There's a lack of conclusive evidence that using drugs to get pressures lower than that will reduce a person's risk of heart attack and stroke — or increase life expectancy.

That's a substantial change from the current recommendation for all adults to get their systolic blood pressure (the first number) below 140, which is endorsed by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology, two big medical professional societies. People with diabetes or kidney disease were told to go even lower, to 130.

In the new guidelines, the systolic goal for adults under 60 remains at 140, but it wipes out the lower target for people with diabetes and kidney disease.

You may wonder why there are dueling guidelines when the Joint National Committee was convened by the National Institutes of Health five years ago to come up with a single national standard. Well, there's a story behind that.

Earlier this year, the NIH decided it was going to get out of the guidelines business, handing it over to the professional societies.

That left the Joint National Committee orphaned. Figuring that joining up with the AHA and the ACC would substantially delay release, the group published its own guidelines in JAMA, the journal of the American Medical Association.

"Producing guidelines in the United States has become increasingly more complicated and contentious," one of three editorials accompanying the guidelines noted.

Indeed, one reason that NIH may have bailed is because the process has become so politicized. The Obama administration came under serious heat from the American Cancer Society and patient groups for a 2009 decision to raise the recommended age to start mammograms to 50. And in 2006 the Infectious Diseases Society of America was sued by the state of Connecticut for recommending against long-term antibiotic treatment for Lyme disease.

A third of Americans have high blood pressure, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Half of them don't have it under control.

"This is a funny situation," says Dr. Harlan Krumholz, a cardiologist at the Yale School of Medicine. "What's good here is that they're really adhering to evidence and being honest about what we don't know. I think in earlier guidelines there's been this false sense of security."

People with very high blood pressure, like 160 or 170 systolic and above, clearly benefit from aggressive treatment with medication to lower blood pressure, Krumholz says. But the evidence shows that people with moderately elevated blood pressure don't gain the same reduction in risk of heart attacks and stroke, even if they manage to lower their numbers.

"We should be going after people with marked elevation to make sure they're all getting treated," Krumholz told Shots. "People with mild risk, you have to be honest with them, and say, 'I don't know if I'm doing much for you.' "

The new guidelines also reflect the fact that after a point it becomes increasingly difficult to push blood pressure lower with drugs.

"It's easy to bring someone from 170 to 150," says Dr. Domenic Sica, a nephrologist at Virginia Commonwealth University, and president-elect of the American Society For Hypertension. "But if you're on three drugs and you're at 150, you may need three more drugs to get from 150 to 130."

The low odds of making that big a change can discourage both patients and doctors. "It's a daunting task," Sica tells Shots. Having more reasonable evidence-based goals may encourage people to work with their doctors to come up with a liveable plan, including healthful eating, exercise, and perhaps less medication and blood pressure monitoring.

But for now, patients and doctors will have to decide what guidelines they like best.

"It's a conundrum," Sica notes, adding that it will also affect how insurance companies rate doctors based on performance, and how they reimburse. "Do they really think insurance companies are going to accept 150 over 90?"

If this isn't confusing enough for you, stay tuned. Next year the AHA and the ACC are scheduled to release their own updated guidelines.


Spike in Harm to Liver Is Tied to Dietary Aids

When Christopher Herrera, 17, walked into the emergency room at Texas Children’s Hospital one morning last year, his chest, face and eyes were bright yellow — “almost highlighter yellow,” recalled Dr. Shreena S. Patel, the pediatric resident who treated him.

Christopher, a high school student from Katy, Tex., suffered severe liver damage after using a concentrated green tea extract he bought at a nutrition store as a “fat burning” supplement. The damage was so extensive that he was put on the waiting list for a liver transplant.

“It was terrifying,” he said in an interview. “They kept telling me they had the best surgeons, and they were trying to comfort me. But they were saying that I needed a new liver and that my body could reject it.”

New data suggests that his is not an isolated case. Dietary supplements account for nearly 20 percent of drug-related liver injuries that turn up in hospitals, up from 7 percent a decade ago, according to an analysis by a national network of liver specialists. The research included only the most severe cases of liver damage referred to a representative group of hospitals around the country, and the investigators said they were undercounting the actual number of cases.

While many patients recover once they stop taking the supplements and receive treatment, a few require liver transplants or die because of liver failure. Naïve teenagers are not the only consumers at risk, the researchers said. Many are middle-aged women who turn to dietary supplements that promise to burn fat or speed up weight loss.

“It’s really the Wild West,” said Dr. Herbert L. Bonkovsky, the director of the liver, digestive and metabolic disorders laboratory at Carolinas HealthCare System in Charlotte, N.C. “When people buy these dietary supplements, it’s anybody’s guess as to what they’re getting.”

Though doctors were able to save his liver, Christopher can no longer play sports, spend much time outdoors or exert himself, lest he strain the organ. He must make monthly visits to a doctor to assess his liver function.

Americans spend an estimated $32 billion on dietary supplements every year, attracted by unproven claims that various pills and powders will help them lose weight, build muscle and fight off everything from colds to chronic illnesses. About half of Americans use dietary supplements, and most of them take more than one product at a time.

Dr. Victor Navarro, the chairman of the hepatology division at Einstein Healthcare Network in Philadelphia, said that while liver injuries linked to supplements were alarming, he believed that a majority of supplements were generally safe. Most of the liver injuries tracked by a network of medical officials are caused by prescription drugs used to treat things like cancer, diabetes and heart disease, he said.

But the supplement business is largely unregulated. In recent years, critics of the industry have called for measures that would force companies to prove that their products are safe, genuine and made in accordance with strict manufacturing standards before they reach the market.

But a federal law enacted in 1994, the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, prevents the Food and Drug Administration from approving or evaluating most supplements before they are sold. Usually the agency must wait until consumers are harmed before officials can remove products from stores. Because the supplement industry operates on the honor system, studies show, the market has been flooded with products that are adulterated, mislabeled or packaged in dosages that have not been studied for safety.

The new research found that many of the products implicated in liver injuries were bodybuilding supplements spiked with unlisted steroids, and herbal pills and powders promising to increase energy and help consumers lose weight.

“There unfortunately are criminals that feel it’s a business opportunity to spike some products and sell them as dietary supplements,” said Duffy MacKay, a spokesman for the Council for Responsible Nutrition, a supplement industry trade group. “It’s the fringe of the industry, but as you can see, it is affecting some consumers.” More popular supplements like vitamins, minerals, probiotics and fish oil had not been linked to “patterns of adverse effects,” he said.

The F.D.A. estimates that 70 percent of dietary supplement companies are not following basic quality control standards that would help prevent adulteration of their products. Of about 55,000 supplements that are sold in the United States, only 170 — about 0.3 percent — have been studied closely enough to determine their common side effects, said Dr. Paul A. Offit, the chief of infectious diseases at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and an expert on dietary supplements.

“When a product is regulated, you know the benefits and the risks and you can make an informed decision about whether or not to take it,” he said. “With supplements, you don’t have efficacy data and you don’t have safety data, so it’s just a black box.”

Since 2008, the F.D.A. has been taking action against companies whose supplements are found to contain prescription drugs and controlled substances, said Daniel Fabricant, the director of the division of dietary supplement programs in the agency’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. For example, the agency recently took steps to remove one “fat burning” product from shelves, OxyElite Pro, that was linked to one death and dozens of cases of hepatitis and liver injury in Hawaii and other states.

The new research, presented last month at a conference in Washington, was produced by the Drug-Induced Liver Injury Network, which was established by the National Institutes of Health to track patients who suffer liver damage from certain drugs and alternative medicines. It includes doctors at eight major hospitals throughout the country.

The investigators looked at 845 patients with severe, drug-induced liver damage who were treated at hospitals in the network from 2004 to 2012. It focused only on cases where the investigators ruled out other causes and blamed a drug or a supplement with a high degree of certainty.

When the network began tracking liver injuries in 2004, supplements accounted for 7 percent of the 115 severe cases. But the percentage has steadily risen, reaching 20 percent of the 313 cases recorded from 2010 to 2012.

Those patients included dozens of young men who were sickened by bodybuilding supplements. The patients all fit a similar profile, said Dr. Navarro, an investigator with the network.

“They become very jaundiced for long periods of time,” he said. “They itch really badly, to the point where they can’t sleep. They lose weight. They lose work. I had one patient who was jaundiced for six months.”

Tests showed that a third of the implicated products contained steroids not listed on their labels.

A second trend emerged when Dr. Navarro and his colleagues studied 85 patients with liver injuries linked to herbal pills and powders. Two-thirds were middle-aged women, on average 48 years old, who often used the supplements to lose weight or increase energy. Nearly a dozen of those patients required liver transplants, and three died.

It was not always clear what the underlying causes of injury were in those cases, in part because patients frequently combined multiple supplements and used products with up to 30 ingredients, said Dr. Bonkovsky, an investigator with the network.

But one product that patients used frequently was green tea extract, which contains catechins, a group of potent antioxidants that reputedly increase metabolism. The extracts are often marketed as fat burners, and catechins are often added to weight-loss products and energy boosters. Most green tea pills are highly concentrated, containing many times the amount of catechins found in a single cup of green tea, Dr. Bonkovsky said. In high doses, catechins can be toxic to the liver, he said, and a small percentage of people appear to be particularly susceptible.

But liver injuries attributed to herbal supplements are more likely to be severe and to result in liver transplants, Dr. Navarro said. And unlike prescription drugs, which are tightly regulated, dietary supplements typically carry no information about side effects. Consumers assume they have been studied and tested, Dr. Bonkovsky said. But that is rarely the case. “There is this belief that if something is natural, then it must be safe and it must be good,” he said.


Friday, December 27, 2013

Why you should eat nuts in pregnancy: Now doctors say it lowers risk of baby developing allergy

I proposed this about a year ago -- JR

Children could have a lower risk of developing a peanut allergy if their mothers eat more nuts in pregnancy, researchers claim.  Their study adds to growing evidence that eating nuts while expecting a baby  has no damaging effect on the unborn child.

Those with peanut allergies can develop breathing problems if they eat or come into contact with nuts. The most severely affected are at risk of life-threatening anaphylactic shock.

Mothers-to-be were previously advised to avoid peanuts, especially if there was a history of allergies such as eczema or asthma in the family, for fear of the baby developing a sensitivity to nuts. One in seven who are sensitive go on to develop allergies.

But now doctors see little harm in peanuts and other nuts, unless the mother herself already has an allergy. In the latest study, researchers looked at data held on 8,205 children.

Some 308 had food allergies. Of these, 140 were allergic to peanuts, which are part of the legume family, or ‘tree nuts’, such as almonds, brazils, cashews, hazelnuts and pistachios.

The findings showed children whose mothers ate peanuts or other nuts five times a week or more had the lowest risk of developing an allergy.

However, this benefit was not found among children of those who had a nut allergy, according to the study published in medical journal JAMA Pediatrics.

Study leader Dr Lindsay Frazier, of the Dana-Farber Children’s Cancer Center in Boston, said: ‘Our study supports the hypothesis that early allergen exposure increases the likelihood of tolerance and thereby lowers the risk of childhood food allergy.’

Dr Ruchi Gupta, of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, said the study showed that women should not restrict their diets during pregnancy.

‘Certainly, women who are allergic to nuts should continue avoiding nuts,’ she said. ‘Pregnant women should not eliminate nuts from their diet as peanuts are a good source of protein and also provide folic acid, which could potentially prevent both neural tube defects and nut sensitisation.’

The number of British children allergic to peanuts has doubled in the past 20 years for reasons which remain unclear.

Until recently parents were advised to avoid giving children peanuts until the age of three in a bid to reduce allergies. Women are now told they can eat peanuts, or food containing peanuts, during pregnancy unless they are allergic to them or a health professional advises against it.

Indeed some doctors believe exposure to peanuts early in life primes a child’s immune system which defuses the threat of developing an allergy.

Dr Adam Fox, a consultant children’s allergist at Guy’s and St Thomas’s NHS Foundation Trust, said: ‘The results of this study are interesting but contradict other studies that have either shown no effect of nut consumption during pregnancy or suggested a possible risk from increased consumption.

'To make things even more complicated, there is also strong evidence to suggest that nut allergy doesn’t develop until after birth and that it is exposure of the infant’s skin to nut protein that is most important in the development of allergy.’

He said the latest international guidelines suggested ‘no need to either avoid nuts, nor to actively eat them’.


Teenagers who smoke cannabis have 'poor memory and abnormal brain structures'

This is suggestive but not proof.  Maybe inadequate people are more likely to use MJ

Teenagers who use cannabis regularly risk damaging their memory, scientists say – in turn leading to poor academic performance.

They believe the brain abnormalities last for ‘at least a few years’ after users have stopped taking the drug.

The researchers also said there was fresh evidence the habit may cause mental health problems in youngsters predisposed to schizophrenia.

Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug among adolescents in the UK, with more than four in ten admitting having taken it.

Almost 100 teenagers took part in the US research examining the effects of cannabis deep in the brain.  It found teenagers who smoked it daily for about three years had abnormal changes in the brain structures related to remembering and processing information and they performed poorly on memory tasks.

The brain abnormalities and memory problems were found on MRI scans when study participants were in their early twenties – two years after they had stopped smoking the drug.

Memory-related structures in their brains appeared to shrink and collapse inward and the researchers said such damage was linked to poor academic performance and everyday functioning.

The study also shows the marijuana-related brain abnormalities look similar  to those seen in schizophrenia patients.

Lead author Matthew Smith, a professor in psychiatry and behavioural sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, said: ‘The study links the chronic use of marijuana to these concerning brain abnormalities that appear to last for at least a few years after people stop using it.

‘With the movement to decriminalise marijuana, we need more research to understand its effect on the brain.’  He said chronic cannabis use may lead to changes in brain structure associated with having schizophrenia.

Of the 15 marijuana smokers who had schizophrenia in the study, 90 per cent had started using the drug heavily before they developed the mental disorder.

Professor Smith added: ‘If someone has a family history of schizophrenia, they are increasing their risk of developing schizophrenia if they abuse marijuana.  ‘If you have schizophrenia and you frequently smoke marijuana, you may be at an increased risk for poor working memory, which predicts your everyday functioning.’

The study, published in the journal Schizophrenia Bulletin, is the first to target key brain regions in the deep grey matter of chronic marijuana users with MRI scanning.

It is also the first time abnormalities in these regions have been linked with an impaired working memory – the ability to remember and process information in the moment and then transfer it to long-term memory.

Participants started using marijuana daily aged 16-17 for about three years – and had been free of the drug for around two years at the time of the study.

The 97 teenagers who took part included healthy people, those with a marijuana use disorder and schizophrenia patients.

The younger the individuals were when they started chronically using marijuana, the more abnormally their brain regions were shaped, suggesting parts related to memory are more susceptible to the effects of the drug if abuse starts at an earlier age.

Under the Labour government cannabis was downgraded from class B to class C in 2004, which critics argued gave the ‘green light’ to use by youngsters.  The decision was reversed in 2008 when ministers decided to overturn official scientific advice and return it to class B.


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

An apple a day could be as good as a statin for over-50s

This is just mathematical modelling:  Proves nothing

An apple a day could stop you having a heart attack – and may even be as effective as taking a statin.  Healthy over-50s who add a daily apple to their diet can benefit as much as those who start taking a tablet, Oxford University researchers claim.

Their study goes some way to proving the proverb coined by the Victorians: ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away.’

The scientists’ calculations suggest that prescribing an apple a day to everyone aged 50 and over would prevent or delay around 8,500 heart attacks and strokes a year in the UK.

The health benefits are similar to giving statins to everyone over 50 who is not already taking cholesterol-lowering drugs.

Dr Adam Briggs, of the British Heart Foundation Health Promotion Research Group at Oxford University, said: ‘The Victorians had it about right when they came up with: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” It just shows how effective small changes in diet can be, and that both drugs and healthier living can make a real difference in preventing heart disease and stroke.’

He added: ‘While no one currently prescribed statins should replace them with apples, we could all benefit from simply eating more fruit.’

In the study, published in the Christmas edition of the British Medical Journal, researchers used mathematical models to assess the impact of prescribing a daily apple for all older adults.

They assumed almost three-quarters would eat their apple a day and that overall calorie intake stayed constant.

They estimate 5.2million people are now eligible for statins in the UK, and if it became policy to prescribe statins to all over-50s as some doctors want, a further 17.6million would be offered them.

But this would also lead to a spate of side effects, including 1,000 extra cases of muscle disease, and more than 10,000 extra diagnoses of diabetes.

The researchers calculate that offering a daily statin to 17.6million more adults would reduce annual vascular deaths by 9,400. However, offering a daily apple to 70 per cent of Britons aged over 50 – 22million people – would avert 8,500 vascular deaths.

The scientists calculated that anyone eating one portion of fruit and vegetables, such as an apple, a day benefits from a 12 per cent reduction in their risk of heart attack and stroke.

And this protection from one portion is roughly equivalent – in a person at low or moderate risk of heart problems – to the reduction in vascular death from taking a statin.

The calculations suggest anyone already eating an apple a day would gain an additional 12 per cent protection from a second apple.

The more portions of fruit and vegetables you eat, the greater protection against deaths from these causes. Latest official figures show only one in three achieve the target of five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.

Dr Peter Coleman of The Stroke Association said: ‘While it is vital those who have been prescribed the cholesterol-lowering drugs statins continue to take this highly effective medication, everyone can lower their risk of stroke with simple lifestyle changes, such as a balanced diet.


How do Americans waste $28 billion a year? On vitamins, doctors say      

Looking for ways to save money in 2014? Here's some advice from doctors: Stop buying vitamins.

Time after time, studies have shown that vitamin and mineral supplements don’t prevent disease or death. And yet consumers keep buying them, lament the authors of an editorial published in Tuesday’s edition of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

A 2011 report from the National Center for Health Statistics estimated that 53% of American adults used some type of supplement in the years 2003 to 2006, with multivitamin/multimineral formulations being the most popular. Those pills weren’t cheap – U.S. consumers spent $28 billion on them in 2010 alone, the editorial says.

Three new studies published in the Annals of Internal Medicine add yet more data to the mountain of evidence that most people get all the vitamins and minerals they need from food:

A meta-analysis conducted for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force found “no consistent evidence that the included supplements affected CVD (cardiovascular disease), cancer, or all-cause mortality in healthy individuals without known nutritional deficiencies. Other systematic reviews have arrived at this same conclusion.” The analysis was based on the results of 27 studies involving more than 450,000 people.

A study involving nearly 6,000 male doctors age 65 and older found that cognitive function and verbal memory were no better in the men who took a daily multivitamin than in men who took a placebo. The doctors were tracked for 12 years.

Finally, a clinical trial testing whether a multivitamin could help prevent serious heart problems – including death – in patients who already had one heart attack concluded that the supplements didn’t help.

These results were right in line with other studies that have found “no clear benefit” from taking multivitamins, antioxidants, folic acid and B vitamins, the editorial says.

And those are the good outcomes. Trials of beta-carotene, vitamin E and high doses of vitamin A linked those supplements with an increased risk of premature death.

As far as the five editorial writers are concerned, the jury is still out on only one supplement – vitamin D. Studies to assess whether extra vitamin D could prevent falls in older people have had mixed results. As researchers continue to sort this out, consumers should be aware that there’s no “solid evidence” that this vitamin will be helpful to most people.

“The message is simple: Most supplements do not prevent chronic disease or death, their use is not justified, and they should be avoided,” the five physicians write.

And just in case that message is not simple enough, the headline spells things out even more clearly – “Enough is Enough: Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements.”


Monday, December 23, 2013

Alert issued on two commonly used crop pesticides which may damage the brains of children and unborn babies

And pigs might fly.  Rodent studies only.  Neonicotinoids have been very widely used for a couple of decades now, suggesting that any real harm among humans would be well-known and obvious by now

A safety watchdog has issued an alert about two food crop pesticides, which may damage the brains of babies in the womb and children.

The suspect chemicals are used around the world on farms growing grapes, strawberries, lettuce, tomatoes, tea and oranges.  They are part of a new group of pesticides called neonicotinoids, which are also used in some flea treatments for cats and dogs.

Experts at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have found there is good evidence that they can damage the developing human nervous system – particularly the brain.

The harmful effects on brain development were similar to those caused by nicotine found in tobacco.

Such a finding suggests these chemicals are a particular threat to developing babies and children by damaging their ability to learn, which could limit their achievements in school and later life.

As a result, the European experts are recommending that the residue levels that are allowed on food crops should be lowered as a safety measure.

The experts are also calling for a comprehensive new testing regime to understand whether other chemicals in the same group could have the similar harmful effects.

The pesticides - Acetamiprid (ACE) and Imidacloprid (IMI) – belong to a new class of insecticides called neonicotinoids that are widely used to protect crops from insects and domestic animals from fleas.

These chemicals have been at the centre of concerns about a danger to bees, which are vital to pollinate food crops. However, this is the first time that concerns about harm to human health have prompted demands for new safeguards from an official watchdog.

Research on the harmful effects of the pesticides have been assessed by EFSA’s Panel on Plant Protection Products and their Residues (PPR).

One study with rats showed that offspring exposed to imidacloprid suffered brain shrinkage, reduced activity of nerve signals controlling movement, and weight loss.

Another rat study found that acetamiprid exposure led to reduced weight, reduced survival, and a heightened response to startling sounds.

EFSA said: ‘The PPR Panel found that acetamiprid and imidacloprid may adversely affect the development of neurons and brain structures associated with functions such as learning and memory.

‘It concluded that some current guidance levels for acceptable exposure to acetamiprid and imidacloprid may not be protective enough to safeguard against developmental neurotoxicity and should be reduced.’

This will mean lowering the acceptable residue levels that exist for food, such as fruit, vegetables and tea.

Georgina Downs of the UK Pesticides Campaign said it was astonishing that the pesticides had been approved for use on food crops without thorough testing to establish any harmful effects on the human nervous system and brain.


There is NO clear link between passive smoking and lung cancer, scientists claim

This has been known for years but people just don't want to believe it

There is no clear link between passive smoking and lung cancer, American scientists have claimed.  Researchers from Stanford University say their findings add to a body of evidence which shows that while smoking cigarettes is strongly linked to cancer, passive smoking is not.

Their large U.S. study of more than 76,000 women did not find a link between the disease and secondhand smoke.

Only people who live in the same house as a smoker for over 30 years might be more likely to develop lung cancer, they say.

‘The fact that passive smoking may not be strongly associated with lung cancer points to a need to find other risk factors for the disease [in nonsmokers],’ said Ange Wang, a medical student at Stanford University, who presented the study at the meeting of American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago.

Researchers from the university and other institutions examined data from the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study to come up with their controversial findings.

Data for 76,304 participants about passive smoking exposure in childhood, the adult home and work for was studied.  Of those that took part, 901 people developed lung cancer over 10.5 years of follow-up.

The study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute said the incidence of lung cancer was 13 times higher in current smokers and four times higher in former smokers than those who have never smoked cigarettes.

Unsurprisingly, the risk of the disease for both current and former smokers depended on their level of exposure.

However, among the women who had never smoked and those who were exposed to secondhand smoke, there was not any ‘significant’ statistical increase in lung cancer risk

‘The only category of exposure that showed a trend toward increased risk was living in the same house with a smoker for 30 years or more,’ the researchers claimed.

While the latest study might surprise many, it is not the first research to come to the same conclusion.

Writing for The Telegraph, author and journalist James Delingpole pointed out that between 1959 and 1989, two staunch anti-smoking campaigners called James Enstrom and Geoffrey Kabat surveyed 118,094 Californians in a bid to prove that smoking had damaging side effects to smokers’ nearest and dearest.

However, they reportedly discovered that exposure to ‘environmental tobacco’ or secondhand smoke, did not significantly increase a person’s risk of lung cancer or heart disease – even if they had been exposed for long periods of time.

Mr Delingpole also said that the World Health Organisation came to a similar conclusion in 1998 after a seven-year study, as well as the Greater London Assembly and the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee.

But despite a growing body of evidence, politicians still went ahead with the smoking ban between 2006 and 2007 in the UK.

Epidemiologist Dr Geoffrey Kabat, an advisor to the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, said the latest study does not come as a surprise.  He told ACSH: ‘The association is weak and inconsistent.’

‘We should not overstate the weak and uncertain association [of lung cancer] with passive smoking and should be looking for other, larger risk factors for lung cancer occurring in never smokers.'


Sunday, December 22, 2013


Really smart guy takes down idiot spouting anti-vaccination rhetoric. Awesome

We’ve never really considered Tumblr to be a beacon of intelligent discussion and debate. To be honest, 99% of Tumblr posts have a hashtag that can somehow be traced back to One Direction, and an even higher percentage of posts are GIFs, most serving as illustrations for some sort of fan fiction.

But, this amazing Tumblr conversation that is doing the rounds on the Internet today may have just changed our minds.

It started with this ill-informed analogy, posted by an anti-vaxxer:

anti vaccination 1 Really smart guy takes down idiot spouting anti vaccination rhetoric. Awesome.

But then the post was seen by an immunologist. And that’s when things started to get interesting:

anti vaccination 2 Really smart guy takes down idiot spouting anti vaccination rhetoric. Awesome.

And more interesting:

anti vaccination 3 Really smart guy takes down idiot spouting anti vaccination rhetoric. Awesome.

And even MORE interesting:

anti vaccination 4 Really smart guy takes down idiot spouting anti vaccination rhetoric. Awesome.

Until the debate was shut down. And rationality had won.

At which point Tumblr celebrated in the only way that Tumblr knows how:

anti vaccination 5 Really smart guy takes down idiot spouting anti vaccination rhetoric. Awesome.

While stories like these might seen funny, they really aren’t. The rise of vaccine objectors is something that is already starting to affect the health of our communities most vulnerable members.

This story serves as a reminder of the power of knowledge in the face of ignorance, and the power of any one person to speak up and stop myths from being perpetuated.


How babies breast-fed for longer do better in class at five

High IQ is the best predictor of breastfeeding so of course the kids of those mothers do better  -- from genetics alone

Children who are breast-fed for longer do better in school by the time they are five, new research claims.

Assessments by teachers at the end of year one revealed that children who had been breast-fed for the longest reached the highest overall levels of achievement.

Importantly, the teachers making the assessments were not aware whether the children had been given mainly breast milk or formula milk.

The research, published in the journal Maternal and Child Nutrition, involved 5,489 children in England.

When their child was nine months old, mothers were asked about their breastfeeding habits.

Two thirds of children had been breast-fed at some stage, 32 per cent had been breast-fed for at least four months and 16 per cent had been exclusively breast-fed for more than four months.

Their educational achievement was then measured using the Foundation Stage Profile – an assessment made by teachers at the end of the first year of school, before the child reaches their fifth birthday.

Teachers rated children on 13 scales covering six areas of development, with scores based on continuous assessment throughout the year.

Half of all children in the study reached the expected standard of achievement for their age – but the figure was only 37 per cent for children who had never been breast-fed.

It was 49 per cent for those breast-fed for under two months, 56 per cent for those breast-fed for between two and four months and 60 per cent for those who were breast-fed for four months or more.

The results were then adjusted to take into account factors such as the mother’s educational level, their socioeconomic status and their childcare arrangements.

Children breast-fed for up to two months were 9 per cent more likely to have reached a good level of overall achievement than children who had never been breast-fed.

Those breast-fed for between two and four months were 17 per cent more likely to have a good level of overall achievement and the effect was similar in children breast-fed for more than four months.

The researchers, from the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit at the University of Oxford, said the study proved that breastfeeding children for longer periods could improve their performance at primary school and help them develop faster.

They suggested that this was because the essential fatty acids found in breast milk can help cognitive development.

However babies not getting breast milk are more prone to infections – which could slow down their academic progress.

Breastfeeding was linked to better achievement in all areas – but the gains were strongest in communication, language and literacy, knowledge and understanding of the world and physical development.

Breast-fed children also tended to get higher scores for personal, social and emotional development, problem-solving, reasoning and numeracy and creative development.

The study comes after the introduction of a controversial scheme, which gives women shop vouchers in return for breastfeeding.

Currently one in four women in the UK does not attempt to breastfeed – one of the worst rates in the world.

A report on the study said: ‘The longer the children had been breast-fed, the more likely they were to reach a good level of educational achievement at 5 – an important predictor of later academic and employment outcomes.’


Friday, December 20, 2013

Aspirin may help in fight against 'anger syndrome'

All theory so far

If you have a quick temper it may calm you to learn that bouts of rage could be cured by simply taking an aspirin.

A study has found that uncontrollable anger may be the result of inflammation in the body. Intermittent explosive disorder (IED), which is known as “anger syndrome”, usually begins in the late teens and is defined as a “failure to resist aggressive impulses”.

US researchers found that IED sufferers had higher markers of inflammation in the blood. Levels of one protein were on average twice as high in those diagnosed with IED, while another marker molecule was present in those with the worst records of aggressive behaviour.

“These two markers consistently correlate with aggression and impulsivity but not with other psychiatric problems,” said Prof Emil Coccaro, the lead scientist from the University of Chicago.

“We don’t yet know if the inflammation triggers aggression or aggressive feelings set off inflammation, but it’s a powerful indication.”

The discovery, which is published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, raises the prospect of treating such anger with common drugs such as aspirin, an anti-inflammatory.

Prof Coccaro said uncontrollable rage was a mental health condition that should not be dismissed as “bad behaviour”. A study in 2006 found that the disorder affects up to five per cent of adults.


No evidence antibacterial chemicals used in liquid soaps actually prevent spread of germs... and they could even damage health, watchdog finds

The Food and Drug Administration said today there is no evidence that antibacterial chemicals used in liquid soaps and washes help prevent the spread of germs, and there is some evidence they may pose health risks.

The agency said it is revisiting the safety of chemicals like triclosan in light of recent studies suggesting they can interfere with hormone levels and spur the growth of drug-resistant bacteria.

The government's preliminary ruling lends new credence to longstanding warnings from researchers who say the chemicals are, at best, ineffective and at worst, a threat to public health.

Under its proposed rule released Monday, the agency will require manufacturers to prove that their antibacterial soaps and body washes are safe and more effective than plain soap and water.

Manufacturers will have a year to prove it after the FDA said: 'To put it simply, we need to collect additional information from the companies that make these products so that consumers can be confident about their effectiveness and about their safety.'

If companies cannot demonstrate the safety and effectiveness of their products, they would have to be reformulated, relabeled or possibly removed from the market.

The agency will take comments on its proposal before finalizing it in coming months.

'Due to consumers' extensive exposure to the ingredients in antibacterial soaps, we believe there should be a clearly demonstrated benefit from using antibacterial soap to balance any potential risk,' said Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA's drug center.

'The proposed rule covers only those antibacterial soaps and washes that are used with water. It does not apply to hand sanitizers, hand wipes or antibacterial soaps that are used in health care setting such as hospitals', the FDA said in their blog.

They aim to have their final rule by September 2016.

The agency's proposal comes more than 40 years after the agency was first tasked with evaluating triclosan and similar ingredients.

At least 2,000 different soap products contain triclosan or some other antimicrobial agent and it is also used in toothpaste to kill germs that cause gum disease, the FDA's Dr. Sandra Kweder said.

Ultimately, the government agreed to publish its findings only after a three-year legal battle with the environmental group, Natural Resources Defense Council, which accused the FDA of delaying action on triclosan.

The chemical is found in an estimated 75 percent of antibacterial liquid soaps and body washes sold in the U.S.

The FDA's preliminary rule only applies to personal hygiene products, but it has implications for a $1 billion industry that includes thousands of antibacterial products, including kitchen knives, toys, pacifiers and toothpaste.

Most of the research surrounding triclosan's safety involves animal studies, which cannot always be applied to humans.

But some scientists worry the chemical can disrupt hormones in humans too, raising the risk of infertility, early puberty and other developmental problems.

Other experts are concerned that routine use of antibacterial chemicals like triclosan is contributing to a surge in drug-resistant germs, or superbugs, that render antibiotics ineffective.

In March 2010, the European Union banned the chemical from all products that come into contact with food, such as containers and silverware.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Eating lots of junk food for just one WEEK can damage your memory permanently

If you are a rat

Everyone knows that junk food is bad for the waistline, but new research suggests it can damage memory, too.

Australian researchers found that even a short term diet of junk food can have a detrimental effect on the brain’s cognitive ability.

The study suggests that obesity can trigger rapid changes in the brain.

Scientists from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) showed for the first time that rats fed a diet high in fat and sugar had impaired memory after just a week.

Interestingly, the results were similarly poor for the rats fed a healthy diet that had been given sugar water to drink, according to the study, which was published in the journal Brain, Behaviour and Immunity.

The animals found it more difficult to recognise specific places after their junk food diet and showed a lesser ability to notice when an object shifted to a new location.

The mice also had inflammation of the hippocampal region of the brain, which is associated with spatial memory.

‘We know that obesity causes inflammation in the body, but we didn't realise until recently that it also causes changes in the brain,’ said Professor Margaret Morris from UNSW Medicine, who co-authored the study.

‘What is so surprising about this research is the speed with which the deterioration of the cognition occurred,’ she said.

‘Our preliminary data also suggests that the damage is not reversed when the rats are switched back to a healthy diet, which is very concerning.’

Some aspects of the animals' memories were spared, regardless of their diets.

All the animals were equally able to recognise objects after eating either the healthy, healthy with sugar or ‘cafeteria’ diets, the latter of which was high in fat and sugar, including cake, chips and biscuits.

The change in the animals' memory appeared even before the mice eating junk food gained any weight.

‘We suspect that these findings may be relevant to people,’ said  Professor Morris.


Poll: Americans want the government to stop banning everything they like 

Americans want the government to stop acting like their mother.   According to a Reason-Rupe poll, Americans do not want government to ban trans-fats, e-cigarettes, online poker, violent video games or genetic testing kits.

Many Americans are becoming frustrated with the government’s growing involvement in what they believe should be their personal decisions.

For one, they do not want the government to be their personal nutritionist. The poll found that 71 percent of Americans oppose the Food and Drug Administration’s proposed trans-fats ban. Only 24 percent of Americans would support measures to outlaw the additive.

The FDA also mandated that the genetic testing company 23andMe halt production of its DNA testing kits. The agency says the company has not gone through the testing required by the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1938.

A 55 percent majority believes that the government should not be allowed to bar them from purchasing the kit. Thirty seven percent told Reason-Rupe that they want this ban to remain in place.

A large majority, 76 percent, said that the government should not be able to prohibit the sale of beverages with large amounts of caffeine. Twenty one percent think the government has the authority to ban the drinks.

Debates across the country have erupted over whether or not electronic cigarettes should be permitted in public places and seven cities have moved to ban the devices. However, 66 percent of those polled think people deserve legal rights to smoke e-cigarettes freely in public locations. Thirty-four percent are against the open use of the devices.

And Americans don’t want the government to act as a video game police. Sixty-six percent told Reason-Rupe that the government should not be able to decide whether they play games like Mario Cart or the gory zombie video game Left for Dead. Some 31 percent want violent video games banned.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

14p-a-day tablet could ease pain for millions of arthritis sufferers without dangerous side effects

This appears to be a very early result from an uncontrolled study

Scientists believe they can help millions of people suffering from arthritis with a new 14p-a-day tablet.  Spironolactone, usually used for high blood pressure and heart failure, could help people with osteoarthritis, it is claimed.

The research at Dundee University has shown it could be a breakthrough for the six million people suffering from the debilitating condition across the country.

Initial tests showed it has painkilling potential and now the scientists are setting up more trials to see its full potential, the Express reports.

Professor Alan Silman, medical director of Arthritis Research UK, has put £135,000 towards the cost of the research.  He said: 'Spironolactone has been around for decades so we know it is safe.'

Osteoarthritis is most common among older people and causes swelling and stiffness in joints.  There is no cure for the extremely painful condition and long-term treatment can include having artificial joints.

Researchers found Spironolactone, which lowers blood pressure, also works to lessen pain in arthritis sufferers.

The study, lead by Professor Marion McMurdo, head of ageing and health at Dundee University, gave 25mg of the drug every day for five months and found it helped sufferers.

Researchers are now bringing in 86 patients, all aged 70 or over, to carry out further tests.

These patients will either be given the drug or a placebo over a 12 week period and the results will help determine if their theory is correct.


A lip balm good enough to eat... literally! (No beetles were harmed making this edible, beetroot-infused strawberry lippy)

"Natural" ingredients guarantee nothing.  Ricin is natural but also highly toxic

We've all stood in Body Shop and wondered if the strawberry bubble bath tastes as good as it smells. I dare say some of us have given it a whirl (and swiftly regretted it...).  But now there is a beauty product that really is good enough to eat.

Australian natural skincare brand MooGoo have created a range of lip balms made entirely of ingredients that are chemical-free, completely vegetarian and wholly edible - especially important in lip products where most of the substance does end up eventually being eaten.

The range features three lip balms, Cow Lick, Tingling Honey, and Strawberry Tinted, the last of which gets its lasting red hue from red beetroot extract rather than the usual cochineal insect dye.

A MooGoo spokesperson said: 'When we were looking at how to add a subtle and natural colour to our Edible Lip Balms, we found that most other brands used "Cochineal" as their natural red colouring.

'This can also be called "Carmine", "Natural Colours" or "Natural Red Number 4". This is made by boiling Cochineal insects in water and extracting the red dye from the insects as it breaks down.

'Although there is nothing wrong with this (except if you are a Cochineal beetle), it made us feel a bit funny about having bug residue on our lips, and so we looked for something nicer.'

After searching, MooGoo found that red beetroot extract gave a much more natural looking colour, and was totally bug-free and healthy when ingested.  And instead of tasting like beetroot, MooGoo use a natural strawberry flavour for the taste.

The brand's all-natural balms were formulated after reading the ingredients on a lip balm they were used during a long car trip.

'The feel of the lip balms we used to use were great. The chemicals used were not. Especially on lips where most of the product is eventually eaten.  'Chemicals can build up in the body over time.  What for years might be harmless, can all of a sudden cause a reaction.

'We have made a lip balms that feel similar to our favorite lip balms from before. However, because we make it for our own use, the ingredients are all edible.'


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Exercise just as good as drugs in war on major disease

Those who "enrolled on exercise programmes" may have been healthier to start with

Exercise could be as effective as some of the best drugs which protect against major diseases, research has found.

A study of more than 300 trials has found that physical activity was better than medication in helping patients recovering from strokes - and just as good as drugs in protecting against diabetes and in stopping heart disease worsening.

The research, published in the British Medical Journal, analysed data about studies on 340,000 patients diagnosed with one of four diseases: heart disease, chronic heart failure, stroke or diabetes.

Researchers said the findings suggested that regular exercise could be "quite potent" in improving survival chances, but said that until more studies are done, patients should not stop taking their tablets without taking medical advice.

The landmark research compared the mortality rates of those prescribed medication for common serious health conditions, with those who were instead enrolled on exercise programmes.

Most of the 305 studies examined involved patients had been given drugs to treat their condition. But 57 of the trials - involving 15,000 volunteers - examined the impact of exercise as a treatment.

The research found that while medication worked best for those who had suffered heart failure, in all the other groups of patients, exercise was at least as effective as the drugs which are normally prescribed.

People with heart disease who exercised but did not use commonly prescribed medications, including statins, and drugs given to reduce blood clots had the same risk of dying as patients taking the medication.

Similarly, people with borderline diabetes who exercised had the same survival chances as those taking the most commonly prescribed drugs.

Drugs compared with exercise included statins, which are given to around five million patients suffering from heart disease, or an increased risk of the condition.

The study was carried out by researcher Huseyin Naci of LSE Health, London School of Economics and Political Science and Harvard Medical School, with US colleagues at Stanford University School of Medicine.

He said prescription drug rates are soaring but activity levels are falling, with only 14 per cent of British adults exercising regularly.

In 2010 an average of 17.7 prescriptions was issued for every person in England, compared with 11.2 in 2000.

Mr Naci said: “Exercise should be considered as a viable alternative to, or alongside, drug therapy.”

Dr John Ioannidis, the director of the Stanford Prevention Research Center at the Stanford University School of Medicine, said: “Our results suggest that exercise can be quite potent.”

Other medications compared with exercise included blood-clotting medicines given to patients recovering from stroke, and alpha-glucosidase inhibitors given to patients on the cusp of developing diabetes.

Only the patients who were recovering from heart failure fared best when prescribed drugs, where anti-diuretic medication was most effective.

However, they said their analysis found far more trials examining drugs, than those which measured the impact of exercise.

They said there was a need for more research into the benefits of exercise for those suffering from serious health problems.

Researchers stressed that they were not suggesting that anyone should stop taking medications they had been prescribed, but suggested patients should think “long and hard” about their lifestyles, and talk to their doctors about incorporating more exercise into their daily routines.


Four hours of light gardening each week could cut kidney stones

Weak effects; correlational study;  Interesting that "Intensity of activity was not associated with stone formation".  Just doing SOMETHING had an apparent effect.  Strongly indicative of a class effect

Four hours of light gardening a week is enough to lower the chance of developing kidney stones by nearly one third, researchers have found.  A study has shown that even small amounts of exercise can radically reduce the risk.

Previous research has shown that being overweight almost doubles the chance of developing kidney stones.  The condition can be incredibly painful and even require surgery.

Now Washington School of Medicine has found that keeping physically active can stop kidneys stones from forming.

They recommend three hours of average walking at 2-3 mph, four hours of light gardening, or one hour of moderate jogging at 6 mph.

The team also discovered that consuming more than 2200 calories per day increased the risk of developing kidney stones by up to 42 per cent.

Mathew Sorensen at the Washington School of Medicine and his colleagues conducted a study to evaluate whether energy intake and energy expenditure related to kidney stone formation.

They studied 84,225 women participating in the Women's Health Initiative, which has been gathering information such as dietary intake and physical activity in women since the 1990s.

"Even small amounts of exercise may decrease the risk of kidney stones—it does not need to be marathons, as the intensity of the exercise does not seem to matter," said Dr. Sorensen

"Being aware of calorie intake, watching their weight, and making efforts to exercise are important factors for improving the health of our patients overall, and as it relates to kidney stones.”

Although the study was only carried out on women, exercise is likely to have a similar effect on men.

In an accompanying editorial, Dr John Lieske of Mayo Clinic said: “Counselling for patients with stones often centers almost exclusively on diet, stressing increased fluid intake, normal dietary calcium, lower sodium, moderate protein, and reduced dietary oxalate.

“The results of Sorensen et al. suggest that a recommendation for moderate physical activity might reasonably be added to the mix," he wrote.

The study appearing in an upcoming issue of the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology

Activity, Energy Intake, Obesity, and the Risk of Incident Kidney Stones in Postmenopausal Women: A Report from the Women’s Health Initiative

By Mathew D. Sorensen et al.


Obesity is a strong risk factor for nephrolithiasis, but the role of physical activity and caloric intake remains poorly understood. We evaluated this relationship in 84,225 women with no history of stones as part of the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study, a longitudinal, prospective cohort of postmenopausal women enrolled from 1993 to 1998 with 8 years’ median follow-up. The independent association of physical activity (metabolic equivalents [METs]/wk), calibrated dietary energy intake, and body mass index (BMI) with incident kidney stone development was evaluated after adjustment for nephrolithiasis risk factors. Activity intensity was evaluated in stratified analyses. Compared with the risk in inactive women, the risk of incident stones decreased by 16% in women with the lowest physical activity level (adjusted hazard ratio [aHR], 0.84; 95% confidence interval [95% CI], 0.74 to 0.97). As activity increased, the risk of incident stones continued to decline until plateauing at a decrease of approximately 31% for activity levels ≥10 METs/wk (aHR, 0.69; 95% CI, 0.60 to 0.79). Intensity of activity was not associated with stone formation. As dietary energy intake increased, the risk of incident stones increased by up to 42% (aHR, 1.42; 95% CI, 1.02 to 1.98). However, intake <1800 kcal/d did not protect against stone formation. Higher BMI category was associated with increased risk of incident stones. In summary, physical activity may reduce the risk of incident kidney stones in postmenopausal women independent of caloric intake and BMI, primarily because of the amount of activity rather than exercise intensity. Higher caloric intake further increases the risk of incident stones.


Monday, December 16, 2013

Aspirin is the best remedy for a sore throat, scientists say

Aspirin is one of the most effective remedies for a sore throat, says research.  A couple of tablets, dissolved in water then gargled – not swallowed – reduced sore throat pain intensity within two hours in a study by the University of Cardiff Common Cold Centre. The effect lasted for more than six hours.

Inhaling products containing menthol was also useful.

‘It provides relief from nasal congestion by causing a cool sensation in the nose and also relieves the symptoms of sore throat and cough by a local anaesthetic action,’ said Professor Ron Eccles, who led the study.

Some types of honey can fight throat infections as it naturally contains hydrogen peroxide which has antibacterial properties, according to experts at Waikato University, New Zealand.

Honey given to children at bedtime did a better job of suppressing night-time coughs than dextromethorphan found in many over-the-counter cough syrups, said research by the University of Maryland.

One other rather more unusual remedy found to be effective was acupuncture in the ear. ‘It’s may be a placebo effect but it still works,’ said Prof Eccles.


An old/new  pill PREVENTS  breast cancer for many

Preventing the body making oestrogen may be a good idea in some ways but side effects should be considered.  There's a lot of them

Thousands of women at high risk of breast cancer could benefit from a daily pill that halves their risk of developing the disease, according  to scientists.  Taking the drug anastrozole for five years cuts the risk by 53 per cent compared with a dummy pill, a trial found.

The results could transform the options for post-menopausal women with a family history of breast cancer or other risk factors.

Earlier this year NHS guidelines recommended for the first time the drugs tamoxifen and raloxifene as a preventative measure for such women.

But the latest research shows anastrozole is more effective, has fewer side effects and is just as cheap – costing around £120 in total for a preventive course of pills.

Tamoxifen cuts the risk by a third, with protection lasting up to 20 years, but it has menopause-like side-effects such as hot flushes and more serious, rarer problems including an increased risk of cancer of the womb lining.

However, the NHS guidance meant almost half a million healthy women at higher risk had a less drastic alternative to having their breasts removed, a step taken by celebrities in this group such as Angelina Jolie.

The latest study looked at almost 4,000 postmenopausal women at high risk of breast cancer with an average age of 59. Half were given 1mg of anastrozole daily and half had a placebo.

In the five years of follow-up, 40 women in the anastrozole group developed breast cancer compared with 85 women in the placebo group – a cut of 53 per cent.

The IBIS II trial, funded by the Cancer Research UK charity, was published in The Lancet medical journal.

Professor Jack Cuzick, lead researcher and head of Queen Mary University of London’s Centre for Cancer Prevention, said the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) should urgently re-visit its guidance. ‘We now know anastrozole should be the drug of choice,’ he said.

Research shows some women taking tamoxifen long-term are deterred by the side effects.

Many breast tumours are fuelled by the hormone oestrogen. Anastrozole, brand name Arimidex, works by preventing the body making oestrogen and, like tamoxifen, has been used for years to prevent recurrence after surgery.

Women were deemed at high risk if they met criteria including having two or more blood relatives with breast cancer or having a mother or sister who developed it before the age of 50.

Experts fear there may be a significant delay in Nice reviewing the guidelines because it has only just produced them. Its guideline development group also looked at drugs like anastrozole, but there was not enough evidence at the time to support them.

Professor Tony Howell, of Genesis Breast Cancer Prevention and one of the trial investigators, said: ‘I saw over 200 women in Manchester after they completed five years on the study and found it difficult to tell whether they were on the active drug or placebo.

‘This provides us with another preventative option, which has the potential to save and prolong the lives of thousands of women.’

Professor Mark Baker, director of the Centre for Clinical Practice at Nice, said: ‘We will certainly consider this research – along with all other available evidence – when the Nice guideline on familial breast cancer is next updated.’

Dr Caitlin Palframan, Head of Policy at Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: ‘The challenge will be ensuring drugs like these are actually offered on the NHS, as many eligible women still don't have access to the risk reducing treatments already recommended in national guidelines.

‘We're working closely with the NHS to ensure important drugs are made available to women when it's appropriate, with the support to help them make an informed choice about their options.’

Trial investigator Winthrop Professor Christobel Saunders, from The University of Western Australia’s School of Surgery, said: ‘The findings from this research may provide a new approach to prevent breast cancer, not only for women today, but also for their daughters and granddaughters in the future.’

Kate Law, director of clinical research at Cancer Research UK, said ‘This landmark study shows that anastrozole could be valuable in helping to prevent breast cancer in women at higher than average risk of disease. We now need accurate tests that will predict which women will most benefit from anastrozole and those who will have the fewest side-effects.’

Anastrozole was originally developed by British company Zeneca Pharmaceuticals, now AstraZeneca, and goes under the brand name Arimidex.


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Scientists believe genetic tweaks could significantly extend  lifespans

If you are a worm.  Since humans already live vastly longer than roundworms, this is a moronic extrapolation.  We probably already have all the life-extending features that work

Living to the ripe old age of 500 might be a possibility if the science shown to extend worms' lives can be applied to humans, scientists have said.

U.S. researchers tweaked two genetic pathways in the tiny lab worm Caenorhabditis elegans and boosted the creature's lifespan by a factor of five.

The research raises the prospect of anti-ageing treatments based on genetic interactions, they said.

‘What we have here is a synergistic five-fold increase in lifespan,’ said lead scientist Dr Pankaj Kapahi, from the Buck Institute of Age Research, Novato, California.

‘The two mutations set off a positive feedback loop in specific tissues that amplified lifespan.   ‘Basically these worms lived to the human equivalent of 400 to 500 years.’

Living to the age of 500 might be a possibility if the science shown to extend worms' lives can be applied to humans, scientists said. Two mutations set off a positive feedback loop in specific tissues that enabled worms to live to the human equivalent of 400 to 500 years

While it could take years of research to extend humans’ lives dramatically, the study raises the prospect of anti-ageing treatments informed by genetic interactions, according to Dr Kapahi.

‘In the early years, cancer researchers focused on mutations in single genes, but then it became apparent that different mutations in a class of genes were driving the disease process,’ he said.
anti-ageing treatments

While it could take years of research to extend humans' lives, the study raises the prospect of anti-ageing treatments informed by genetic interactions.  ‘The same thing is likely happening in ageing,’ he added.

C. elegans, the first animal to have its whole genome (or genetic code) mapped, has been widely used in studies of ageing and lifespan.

The new research, reported in the journal Cell Reports, involved blocking key molecules that affect the action of insulin and a nutrient signalling pathway called Target of Rapamycin (TOR).

Single mutations in the TOR pathway were known to extend the lifespan of C. elegans by 30 per cent, while insulin-signalling mutations could double the amount of time they lived.

Adding the two together might have been expected to extend longevity by 130 per cent, but the combined impact turned out to be much greater.

The research may explain why it has proved so difficult to identify single genes responsible for the long lives enjoyed by human centenarians.

‘It's quite probable that interactions between genes are critical in those fortunate enough to live very long, healthy lives,’ said Dr Kapahi.

Future research is expected to use mice to see if the same effects occur in mammals.

‘The idea would be to use mice genetically engineered to have suppressed insulin signalling and then treat them with the drug rapamycin, which is well-known to suppress the TOR pathway,’ Dr Kapahi said.


Junk food and fizzy drinks cause children to be TWICE as unhappy as their healthier counterparts

This just means that middle class people were happier.  Middle class people would be the "correct" eaters.  The journal article is:  "Well-Being in Adolescence—An Association With Health-Related Behaviors: Findings From Understanding Society, the UK Household Longitudinal Study"

Fast food and fizzy drinks could be causing widespread depression among in children.  A study of 10 to 15-year-olds found that children who played sports and ate healthy foods were twice as likely to be happy.

More than 85 per cent of the 5,000 children polled admitted they did not eat five portions of fruit and veg a day, but those that did doubled their chances of a feeling of well-being.

Gender and age were key factors, with older children largely the least satisfied and girls more likely to eat healthy food.

Teenagers were more prone to eating fatty foods and takeaways, and were less happy than their younger peers.

‘Older children had more control over what they ate, and consumed more junk food,’ said researcher Dr Cara Booker, from the Institute for Social and Economic Research at Essex University.

During the study, happiness was graded through 20 questions including how well the children got on with their peers, whether they were kind and shared with others, and if they got restless or angry.

Children who ate their greens five times a day were happiest, while the ones that ate three to four a day were 20 per cent more likely to have a feeling of well-being.

The study by Essex University found that 37 per cent of boys took part in sport every day, compared with 22 per cent of girls

‘Teenagers were less likely to be happy than younger ones, but younger ones do have to deal with more socio-emotional problems as they are less developed emotionally,’ said Dr Booker.

Alcohol and smoking also played a role in the findings, with 25 per cent admitting to drinking in the previous four weeks, and seven per cent having smoked in the same period.

Children who smoked were five times less likely to be happy than non-smoking youngsters, and those that drunk alcohol were found to be about five times less cheery than their teetotal peers.

Of the younger children, eight per cent of 10 to 12 per cent had drunk alcohol.

'It goes along with what we expected to see, and when we put it together with previous findings it stands up and makes them more robust,’ said Dr Booker said.

‘In terms of eating junk food moderation is the key - we're not telling anyone they can't eat these foods, just that they shouldn't be consumed all the time.’