Friday, May 31, 2013

Living in the countryside 'may increase the risk of Parkinson's disease' by up to 80%

This is just correlational rubbish.  Country people tend to have lower IQs and low IQ is associated with worse health.  Pesticides need have nothing to do with it

A country life may sound idyllic, but experts have found a possible link between rural living and Parkinson's disease.

Analysis of more than 100 studies from around the world shows that exposure to pesticides, bug and weed killers and solvents is associated with a higher risk of developing Parkinson's disease.

Study author, Dr Emanuele Cereda, said: 'Due to this association, there was also a link between farming or country living and developing Parkinson's in some of the studies.'

Researchers from the IRCCS University Hospital San Matteo Foundation in Pavia, Italy, reviewed studies that looked at weed, fungus, rodent or bug killers, and solvents in relation to the risk of developing Parkinson's disease.

Proximity to these chemicals, due to country living, occupation and drinking water were also evaluated.

The research found that being exposed to bug or weed killers and solvents increased the risk of developing Parkinson's disease by 33 to 80 per cent.

In controlled studies, exposure to the weed killer paraquat or the fungicides maneb and mancozeb was associated with twice the risk of developing the disease.

Dr Cereda added: 'We didn't study whether the type of exposure, such as whether the compound was inhaled or absorbed through the skin and the method of application, such as spraying or mixing, affected Parkinson's risk.

'However, our study suggests that the risk increases in a dose response manner as the length of exposure to these chemicals increases.'

The research appears in the journal Neurology.


Toddlers should drink two cups of cow's milk a day - no more, no less, say experts

Cow's milk is both good and bad for you?  Sounds unlikely.  Much in need of replication before it is taken seriously.  Journal article here

Two cups of cow’s milk a day is the ideal amount for toddlers, researchers say.  Too little can lead to deficiency in vitamin D - but too much can deplete levels of iron, a study found.

The authors looked at the levels of vitamin D and iron, two of the most important nutrients in milk, in more than 1,300 children aged between one and five from 2008 to 2010.

Lead author of the study, Dr Jonathon Maguire, a paediatrician at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, Canada, said: 'Vitamin D deficiency in children has been linked to bone health issues and iron deficiency has been linked to anaemia and delays in cognitive development.

'We started to research the question because professional recommendations around milk intake were unclear and doctors and parents were seeking answers.

'Being able to answer parents’ questions about healthy cow’s milk intake is important to avoiding these potentially serious complications of low vitamin D and iron stores.'

They found that children who drank the most cow’s milk had higher Vitamin D stores, but lower iron stores.

He added: 'We saw that two cups of cow’s milk per day was enough to maintain adequate vitamin D levels for most children, while also maintaining iron stores.

'With additional cow’s milk, there was a further reduction in iron stores without greater benefit from vitamin D.'

The researchers recruited healthy children during routine doctor’s appointments.  Parents were asked to fill out an extensive questionnaire about their children’s milk drinking habits and other factors that could affect iron and Vitamin D stores.

A blood sample was obtained from each child to determine body stores of iron and Vitamin D.

The study also suggested that children with darker skin pigmentation may not have enough vitamin D stores during the winter months.

However, Dr Maguire suggested that instead of consuming more milk to increase these levels, wintertime vitamin D supplementation may be a more appropriate way of increasing vitamin D stores while preserving iron stores.

The results of the study were published online by the journal Paediatrics.


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Obesity risk for C-section babies: 84% more likely to be overweight than children born naturally

Less healthy women probably have more C-sections and it is the prior health of the mother that influences obesity, not the C-section

Babies born by caesarean section are almost twice as likely to be overweight as children and teens, according to a new study.

After examining the health records of more than 10,000 British children, researchers found that surgically delivered 11-year-olds were 83 per cent more likely to be overweight compared to those born naturally.

The results of the study confirm previous research that also found a link between caesareans and childhood obesity.

Researchers believe that babies by natural childbirth are exposed to bacteria in the birth canal which helps regulate metabolism in later life.

The findings suggests the obesity epidemic could in part be driven by increasing rates of caesareans. The rate in England stands at one in four births, which totals more than 160,000 a year.

Health concerns often dictate whether a women undergoes surgical delivery, which can be life-saving for both mother and child, but in many cases there is no medical reason for the operation.

‘There may be long-term consequences [of caesareans] to children that we don’t know about,’ said lead researcher Dr Jan Blustein, from the New York University School of Medicine.

She said the extent of the obesity risk for children is ‘not great’ and should not be a factor when considering whether a women should have the operation for medical reasons.

The team looked at data from a major investigation of childhood development called the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. This tracks the long-term health and well-being of around 14,000 children born in the early 1990s.

Just over nine per cent of the children in the study were born by caesarean, and on average were two ounces lighter than those delivered naturally.

But by the age of six weeks, those surgically delivered were consistently heavier than their naturally-born counterparts at almost all points - even when other factors such as their mother’s weight and whether they were breastfed were taken into account.

The risk of obesity was particularly marked among children born to overweight mothers, the researchers said.

In total, a third of all the three-year-olds in the study were overweight, while at the age of seven and 15 there was a 17 per cent chance of a child being obese.

The research, published in the International Journal of Obesity, also highlighted the risks to women of undertaking a caesarean including increased chance of bowel or bladder injuries as well as future pregnancy complications.

Dr Blustein said one reason for the link between caesarean’s and obesity could that these infants are not exposed to beneficial bacteria in the birth canal, and therefore their bodies take longer to accumulate good bugs that boost the body’s metabolism.

Obese adults tend to have fewer ‘friendly’ bacteria in their digestive tract and higher levels of ‘bad’ bacteria, which mean they burn fewer calories and store more of them as fat.

However, other studies show that obese women are more likely to need a caesarean, and are more likely to have children who grow up to be overweight or obese.

‘The other possibilities are (that) these are children that would have been heavier anyway,’ Dr Blustein said. ‘Being heavy as a woman is a risk factor for C-section, so that’s the problem with trying to figure out whether this is real or if it’s simply a matter of selection.’


An end to annual flu injections? Scientists develop new 'universal' jab against all strains of influenza which could last a lifetime

Let's hope it works

A new type of vaccine has been developed which could provide long-term protection and last a lifetime against all types of influenza.

The 'universal' vaccine targets part of the virus common to all strains, meaning it could provide a way around the problem of the bug frequently mutating and making preventative treatment ineffective.

It was created by a team working for U.S. healthcare company Sanofi using techniques that have also raised hopes of a new generation of vaccines against other diseases.

The study has been published in the journal Nature.

Team leader Gary Nabel said: 'This structure-based vaccine improves the potency and breadth of influenza virus immunity, and it provides a foundation for building broader vaccine protection against emerging influenza viruses and other pathogens.'

Influenza kills between 250,000 and 500,000 globally per year, according to the World Health Organisation.

Earlier this month experts warned a deadly bird flu virus sweeping through China had taken the first steps towards becoming a global threat to human populations.

In the space of one month, the avian strain known as H7N9 spread through all 31 Chinese provinces and claimed 125 victims, killing a fifth of those infected.

Scientists say it is mutating rapidly and already has two of five genetic changes believed to be necessary for human-to-human transmission.

Currently the virus has made its home in chickens, and only affected people who have had close contact with the birds, often at live markets.

The Sanofi team's vaccine is built using protein 'self-assembling nanoparticles', which when injected create antibodies that attach themselves to parts of the virus that are common to different strains.

In lab tests on ferrets, which can suffer the same strains of flu as humans, it was more potent and affected more strains than the current licensed vaccine, the team said.

It is also safer to make than standard vaccines, which are produced by growing the virus in a lab.

The DIY way it is made means similar methods could be used to create vaccines against other diseases.

Scientists gave a cautious welcome to the research, but said trials on humans were needed to see if it worked as well as hoped.

Professor Wendy Barclay, chair in influenza virology at Imperial College London, said the research targeted a 'soft underbelly of the virus'.

'In short this paper takes us a step closer to believing that a universal flu vaccine is possible, by thinking outside of the box in terms of how to synthesise and manufacture flu vaccines,' she said.

'What's more this route could be faster, cheaper and safer than the one we usually use.'

Professor Sarah Gilbert, professor of vaccinology at the University of Oxford, added:

'There's no indication as to whether any clinical trials are planned, and since this is a new type of vaccine it might be some time before they could start.

'So at the moment it's an interesting development in the lab, with some novel aspects, but definitely not a universal influenza vaccine and it needs to be tested in clinical trials before we get too excited.'


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Boy, 2, who was fighting for his life with meningitis is cured using daily doses of ASPIRIN

A gorgeous boy.  How wonderful that he was saved

A baby boy who developed a deadly infection that made his brain swell has made a miraculous recovery - after doctors used aspirin to save his life.

Robert Airey was nine months old when he was diagnosed with pneumococcal meningitis and respiratory failure.

He was rushed to Southampton Children's Hospital as the infection caused a series of minor strokes and affected the nerves to his vocal cords.

And as doctors fought to save Robert's life, his brain continued to swell. It was then consultant paediatric neurologists Professor Colin Kennedy and Dr Neil Thomas took the unusual step of giving Robert daily doses of aspirin.

The decision proved a defining moment as the drug treated the blood clots in Robert's brain and the brave boy made a miraculous recovery.

The infection, which causes inflammation in the brain and spinal cord, affects around 200 people, mainly babies, every year.  More than 20 per cent of those die from the illness and half experience long-term health complications such as deafness or brain damage.

But Robert, who turned two in March, has incredibly survived the infection - and escaped any of the life-changing repercussions.

His mother Sarah, 34, who is a GP, said: 'Miracle can be an overused term, but I think it's relevant here.

'From what we expected, to him making it and then recovering so well - it was an against the odds job.

'And to see him playing in the mud, rolling around and playing with the other children is an amazing sight.'

Robert first fell ill at his family home in Goring-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, in the days leading up to Christmas in 2011.  He'd had cough and cold symptoms for a few days, but by Boxing Day his temperature had become very high and he was suffering with sickness.

That evening worried parents Sarah and Paul noticed their baby suddenly felt limp and his breathing had become very fast. His skin was pale and his hands and feet were also very cold.

They rushed him to Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading, Berks, where he was diagnosed with pneumococcal meningitis and respiratory failure.

Sarah said: 'From one minute being at home enjoying our first Christmas with Robert, we found ourselves in hospital being told he had severe meningitis and was suffering from respiratory failure. It was terrifying.'

Robert was in need of an urgent transfer to a specialist children's intensive care unit to receive the care his life depended on.  But with nearby hospitals at full capacity, doctors called on the paediatric intensive care unit (PICU) at Southampton Children's Hospital in Hampshire.

Sarah said: 'We struggled to take it all in, but the gravity of the situation was clear. At one stage, we were discussing transfer to a children's hospice.'

After initially responding to antibiotic treatment, Robert's immune system went into overdrive and set off a second round of inflammation in his brain.

Consultant paediatric neurologists Professor Colin Kennedy and Dr Neil Thomas then decided to administer him with a daily dose of aspirin.

Professor Kennedy said: 'This is a rare, but particularly aggressive illness and, despite seemingly beginning to do well, there was a marked deterioration in Robert's condition in his second day in PICU.

'Aspirin is not a conventional treatment for children with meningitis, particularly babies, but the severity of this situation and the need for fast action changed the likely balance of risk and benefit.'

The decision proved life-saving and Robert was moved out of the unit four days later - his dad Paul's birthday.

IT project manager Paul, 35, said: 'After such a rollercoaster of emotion in such a short space of time, it was almost unbelievable that Robert was well enough to leave intensive care - it was the ultimate birthday gift.'

Robert, who has made an almost full recovery since being discharged from hospital in October, now spends two days a week at nursery.

Sarah added: 'We were told Robert had even escaped some of the life-changing consequences, such as hearing impairment and severe brain damage, and I put that down to the exceptional medical team and the outstanding nursing care he received.'


Alzheimer's 'wonder drug' could be completely ineffective, warn scientists

A 'wonder' drug hailed as a new treatment for Alzheimer's may be ineffective, experts have warned. The cancer drug bexarotene, marketed as Targretin, was said to reverse the build-up of the brain plaques which have been linked Alzheimer's.

A high profile 2012 report, published in journal Science, reported that the drug quickly removed most of the plaques in the brains of mice and rapidly reversed the pathological, cognitive and memory deficits related to the onset of Alzheimer's.

The results were 'stunning' to the scientific community but seemed 'too good to be true', it was claimed at the time.

Now, another team of experts writing in the same journal say they have been unable to replicate the results of the original study and have called the findings into doubt.

Researchers at the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, Massachusetts General Hospital, Washington University in St Louis and University of Tubingen in Germany, jointly stated: `The drug has no impact on plaque burden.

`We have failed to support earlier findings that Targretin is efficacious in reducing plaque burden in transgenic mouse models of cerebral plaque deposition.'

Professor Sangram Sisodia, of the University of Chicago, said he and his colleagues were curious about the initial report in 2012.

He said: `We were surprised and excited, even stunned, when we first saw these results presented at a small conference.  `The mechanism of action made some sense, but the assertion that they could reduce the areas of plaque by 50 per cent within three days, and by 75 per cent in two weeks, seemed too good to be true.

`We all went back to our labs and tried to confirm these promising findings.  `We repeated the initial experiments - a standard process in science. Combined results are really important in this field. None of us found anything like what they described in the 2012 paper.'  The researchers found no effects on plaque burden of mice that were treated with bexarotene.

They say that the discrepancy is not only disappointing but also raises concerns for patient safety.

The drug was approved for treating a type of skin cancer, meaning it is also available by prescription for 'off label' uses as well.

But it has never been tested as a treatment for Alzheimer's in humans and has side effects including headaches, vomiting and liver problems.

Despite the lack of testing on Alzheimer's patients, it is believed that many requested that their doctors prescribed them the medication and, in some cases, were given it.

Professor Robert Vassar, of Northwestern University, said: `Anecdotally, we have all heard that physicians are treating their Alzheimer's patients with bexarotene, a cancer drug with severe side effects.

`This practice should be ended immediately, given the failure of three independent research groups to replicate the plaque-lowering effects of bexarotene.'

But other experts, also writing in Science, said that the cognitive effects on the mice had been replicated, even if the effects on plaque had not.

University of Pittsburgh professor, Rada Koldamova said that the drug did improve cognitive effects on mice, although tests could not confirm the actual effects on the plaques.

Professor Koldamova said: `We believe these findings make a solid case for continued exploration of bexarotene as a therapeutic treatment for Alzheimer's disease.'

Co-author Iliya Lefterov said: `We were already set up to repeat the Case Western Reserve University study to see if we could independently arrive at the same findings.

`While we were able to verify that the mice quickly regained their lost cognitive skills and confirmed the decrease in amyloid beta peptides in the interstitial fluid that surrounds brain cells, we did not find any evidence that the drug cleared the plaques from their brains.'


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

CDC: 1 In 5 US Children May Have Mental Disorder

This is just definitional extravagance.  One in three adults were once said to be neurotic as well.  You can define your way to any conclusion you want

 Nearly 1 in 5 children in the U.S. suffers from a mental disorder, and this number has been rising for more than a decade.

According to a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up to 20 percent of American children are suffering from mental disorders such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, depression and autism.

The CDC's first study of mental disorders among children aged 3 to 17 also found that the cost of medical bills for treatment of such disorders is up to $247 billion each year.

"This is a deliberate effort by CDC to show mental health is a health issue. As with any health concern, the more attention we give to it, the better. It's parents becoming aware of the facts and talking to a health-care provider about how their child is learning, behaving and playing with other kids," said Dr. Ruth Perou, the study's lead author.

The CDC data was collected between 1994 and 2011, and it shows that the number of children being diagnosed with mental disorders has been steadily growing. The study did not conclude exactly why the numbers are increasing.

More research is needed to determine the specific causes of mental disorders, said Dr. Perou, and that greater awareness could lead to an uptick in diagnoses. A host of environmental factors, including chemical exposure and poverty, also can affect a child's mental health, she said.

The study also found that girls were more prone to depression and alcohol abuse than boys, and that 6.8 percent of U.S. children are affected by attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.


Live longer with a daily dose of calcium: Women who take a supplement have a 22% lower risk of death

All this probably shows is that people who take supplements are more careful with their health generally

Taking a calcium supplement of up to 1,000 mg per day can help women live longer, say researchers.

A new study shows a 22 per cent lower risk of dying over a 10-year period compared with women who are not taking supplements regularly.

The study is likely to reassure many who take supplements either prescribed by their doctor for osteoporosis - thinning bones - or bought over the counter as 'bone insurance'.

Previously there have been fears that high-dose supplements could raise the risk of dying from heart disease.

But Canadian researchers behind the latest study are unequivocal in recommending extra calcium for women with low intakes.

Lead author David Goltzman, of McGill University in Montreal, said 'Our study found daily use of calcium supplements was associated with a lower risk of death among women.

'The benefit was seen for women who took doses of up to 1,000 mg per day, regardless of whether the supplement contained vitamin D.' according to a recent study accepted for publication in The Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM).

The researchers analysed data from the large-scale Canadian Multicentre Osteoporosis Study which monitored the health of 9,033 Canadians between 1995 and 2007. During that period, 1,160 participants died.

The findings show a 22 per cent cut in risk of death for women using calcium supplements compared with non-users, but no statistical benefit for men.

The study found no conclusive evidence that taking vitamin D had an impact on death rates.

There appeared to be no benefit from taking calcium at doses bigger than 1,000mg a day.

Dr Golzman said 'Higher amounts of calcium were potentially linked to longer lifespans in women, regardless of the source of the calcium.  'That is, the same benefits were seen when the calcium came from dairy foods, non-dairy foods or supplements.

'Our recommendation would be to assess dietary intake to meet calcium and vitamin D requirements for bone health and to consider supplementation as necessary to meet the requirements.'

The study, which is to be published in the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, suggests several possible mechanisms for promoting longer life.

Calcium supplements are linked to a better balance of blood fats, lower risk of high blood pressure, better bone metabolism and bowel health.

Health benefits may also be driven by eating more calcium from food within a healthy diet, including dairy products and fish.

There have been conflicting results from studies in recent years about the benefits and possible harms of taking calcium supplements, especially more than 1,000mg a day.

Scientists believe mega doses of calcium circulating in the blood have a 'flooding effect' which may lead to hardening of the arteries and heart attacks.

In contrast, dietary calcium is taken in small amounts spread throughout the day, so is absorbed slowly.

The Food Standards Agency recommends adults have 700mg of calcium a day, which should come from dietary sources including all types of milk, cheese, yoghurts and green, leafy vegetables.

Official figures suggest women consume only 740mg of calcium per day from food sources on average - 43mg lower than in 2000-1.

Carrie Ruxton, spokesperson for the Health Supplements Information Service, said it was likely that women taking extra calcium were reaping the benefits of having an optimal supply of the mineral.

She said: 'Men tend to get a bigger intake from their diet but many women don't consume as much, especially those cutting back on dairy products.

'The benefits found in this study could be from women having extra supplies, bringing them up to normal and optimal levels.'

She said there were subtle effects on metabolism apart from calcium's bone-building qualities, including regulation of appetite and weight.

But the direct effects of helping to prevent the consequences of osteoporosis such as falls and hip fractures should not be under-estimated.


Monday, May 27, 2013

Why it's truly bonkers to believe in shrinks


Review by Roger Lewis

Psychiatrists - the shrinks, trick-cyclists, Viennese witch-doctors - have always been either figures of fun or feared.

If it wasn't Freud getting you to talk dirty about your mother, or the men-in-white-coats in the Soviet Union locking people away for thinking the wrong thoughts, then it was Peter Sellers in a Richard III wig, more mad than any of his patients, in What's New Pussycat? or Jack Nicholson being tortured in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

The traditional therapies on offer were barbaric - lobotomies, electro-convulsive seizures - and needless to say never did anyone any good. Nevertheless, psychiatry continues to be the great growth industry of our times - 450 million people worldwide `have a mental health problem' - despite the fact that it has `the poorest curative success'.

The conclusion (and the argument of this essential book) is obvious: psychiatry is basically bogus - and damaging. There is no solid scientific justification for any of its activities - as the only `identifiable biological diseases' involving an observable malfunction of the brain are epilepsy, Alzheimer's, Huntington's chorea, strokes and cerebral tumours.

The `chemical imbalance' theories have been debunked, and as James Davies remarks, `no biological markers have been identified' for the thousands of behavioural `disorders' that now prevail.

This hasn't stopped the psychiatric experts from cooking up ailments, however. Their bible, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, gets thicker with each new edition. Despite there being `no scientific evidence' for any of this, people are led to believe they have `a problem in their brain' if they drink too much coffee (`caffeine-related disorders'), stutter or swear (`language disorders'), are shy or reserved (`social phobias'), suffer period pains, are too fat or too thin, feel irritable, sexy, unsexy, sleepless, tired, or experience grief for more than two weeks after the death of a loved one. By these means, 26.2??per cent of all American adults suffer from a disorder of some sort, requiring that it be `pharmacologically treated'.

Though psychiatric research is by all accounts `a hodgepodge, scattered, inconsistent and ambiguous', one thing has definitely emerged - that anti-depressants don't work.

Extensive trials have shown that placebos induce as much of a degree of uplift as Prozac, Seroxet or any of the other wonder drugs, which simply make patients feel numb, glassy and emotionally disengaged.

As Davies says: `Numbing things isn't curing things or even, in the long run, helping things.' The drugs are essentially sedatives, and people are plunged into such a fog `they can no longer feel depressed or anything else'.

The biggest horror is the dosing of children with Ritalin, `which is as powerful as cocaine'. These days, any child who's a bit naughty, inattentive, cheeky, quick or slow,  (i.e. any child who is childish) is diagnosed as suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), or is autistic or has Asperger's Syndrome. If paediatricians and psychiatrists are to be believed, autism has increased 20 times in 15 years, and as a consequence 5.29 per cent of the global child population is on tablets.

Few children actually warrant the diagnosis - as Davies says, there is now an `out-of-control medicalisation of normality'. So who are the ultimate villains of the piece? Answer: the pharmaceutical companies, which make over 12.5 billion each year from the sale of happy pills. Sane people are told they are insane because it is big business.

The drug companies pay eminent professors, university officials and teaching hospital chairmen millions `in personal income' to concoct more and more abnormalities so that more and more pills can be dished out by GPs and specialists.

They pocket consultancy fees to attend conferences, give marketing lectures and endorse useless tablets. They are bribed, in essence, not to openly criticise the pharmaceutical industry. Davies (courageously) names names.

What this adds up to is a scandal that is bigger and more widespread than thalidomide. If people are `not getting any clinically meaningful benefit' from the pills, then it is because depression, for instance, is simply to be sad or disappointed, unlucky in love, bored or bereaved, full of remorse, jealousy and low morale.

It is not a condition or a deviation - it is normal. Feeling rotten and anxious, being up and down, or even despairing, are all part of the ordinary problems of living - of being human and not a robot or a zombie.

When Davies confronted Professor Sue Bailey, head of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, she was frighteningly honest and virtually chucked in the towel: `When you go into a profession where you want to help people, and you don't have the tools to help them, the temptation is to medicalise them.'

Psychiatry is based upon and feeds the delusion that we have a fundamental in-built right to be continuously happy. Grasp this, stop fretting that you are not full of beans, start enjoying being grumpy, laugh at life, admit that everyone is ill-adjusted to something or other, and, well, you may very well soon end up being me. Twenty stone of sardonic Welsh idiot.

There - hasn't the mental image of that made you feel better already?


Australia:  Quack medicine taught to doctors

General practitioners are receiving government-mandated training by doctors who claim vaccines are linked to autism and temper tantrums can be treated by delaying immunisation.

The body that oversees doctors will investigate how the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP), which represents more than 20,000 GPs, could have approved the course as part of its "continuing professional development" program.

Ongoing education is supposed to protect patients by ensuring practitioners are trained in the most up-to-date medical evidence. But experts fear the system is failing because of inadequate oversight.

The GP training course is run by the Australasian College of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine, which says it "does not have a policy on immunisation", and doctors should "make informed decisions determined by evidence-based science".

Its four-day course perpetuates long-discredited misinformation about immunisation, including claims childhood vaccines contain mercury. It also references researcher Andrew Wakefield, whose work was found to be wrong and tainted by financial conflicts of interest.

Australian Medical Association head Steve Hambleton said the accreditation of training courses should be reviewed.

"Clearly, this is concerning and it's not something the college or the AMA can be comfortable with, and neither can the parents of children," he said. "Colleges have a great responsibility to ensure they are doing their job."

A hospital doctor who discovered the anti-vaccination course, Martin Tio, said patients could be put at risk by misinformation. "If you are going to delay vaccination or, to use the example from the vaccine-specific course lectures, to make a case vaccines are linked to autism … it could easily discourage them from getting vaccinated."

He feared the acceptance of unscientific claims was becoming more widespread in the medical community.

Ken McLeod, from Stop the Australian (Anti)Vaccination Network, said he was aghast to see such dangerous misinformation given to doctors. "You have to wonder who let these discredited cranks in," he said.

Professor of public health at Bond University Chris Del Mar said doctor training was often influenced by vested interests and lacking an evidence base.

"There are very serious flaws in the way continuing medical education is conducted," he said. He was particularly concerned about courses run by drug companies.

Medical Board of Australia spokeswoman Nicole Newton said it would be concerned about training that was inconsistent with good medical practice. "The board will follow this up with the college," she said.

The Australian Medical Council accredited education requirements set by colleges, she said, but left the examination of individual courses to the colleges.

A spokeswoman for the RACGP would not comment on the course while it was under investigation. "The RACGP endorses and actively supports immunisation," she said. "Temper tantrums are not a recognised reason for delay of immunisations."

She emphasised there was no link between vaccines and autism and said using Mr Wakefield's research would "constitute serious academic misconduct".


Sunday, May 26, 2013

Canola: Forgive me while I laugh

The health freaks love canola:  Here's why:

"Canola oil is low in saturated fat and contains both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in a ratio of 2:1. If consumed, it also reduces Low-density lipoprotein and overall cholesterol levels, and as a significant source of the essential omega-3 fatty acid is associated with reduced all-cause and cardiovascular mortality. It is recognized by many health professional organizations including the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and American Heart Association. Canola oil has been given a qualified health claim from the United States Food and Drug Administration due to its high levels of cholesterol-lowering fats."  -- Wikipedia

But I wonder how many know that Canola is a genetically modified version of rapeseed invented in Canada  (hence the Can in Canola) only a few years back?  And what about how the crop is processed before it gets to your dinner table?

"Canola oil is made at a processing facility by slightly heating and then crushing the seed. Almost all commercial grade canola oil is then refined using hexane. Finally, the crude oil is refined using water precipitation and organic acid, "bleaching" with clay, and deodorizing using steam distillation.  Approximately 43% of a seed is oil." -- Wikipedia

And what is that dreaded hexane?

It's a CHEMICAL!   "Hexanes are significant constituents of gasoline. They are all colorless liquids at room temperature, with boiling points between 50 and 70 øC, with gasoline-like odor. They are widely used as cheap, relatively safe, largely unreactive, and easily evaporated non-polar solvents."

So canola  gets mixed with a type of gasoline before it gets to your table!  It must be very pesky being a food knowall  -- JR

EU drops olive oil jug ban after public outcry

A European Union ban on the use of unmarked olive oil jugs on restaurant tables has been dropped following a public outcry across Europe.

The climb down overrides an EU decision last week requiring that olive oil "presented at a restaurant table" must be in factory packaged bottles with a tamper-proof "hygienic" nozzle and printed labelling in line with Brussels standards.

In a humiliating U-turn, Dacian Ciolos, the European commissioner for agriculture, admitted that the proposed ban on traditional olive oil jugs, had provoked popular loathing, or "misunderstanding", from the people that he said wanted to protect for their own good.

"It was a measure intended to help consumers, to protect and inform them but it is clear that it cannot attract consumer support," he said.

"As a consequence, I am withdrawing the proposition. I wanted to come here today to demonstrate that I've been very alive to the current debate in the press."

Owen Paterson, the Environment Secretary, welcomed the U-turn but still faces questions over why the Government did not oppose the ban in Brussels negotiations over the ban last week.

"I'm glad the commission has seen sense and backed down on these arbitrary rules. They would have interfered with businesses, imposed unnecessary costs and taken choice away from consumers. Common sense has prevailed," he said.

The ban on the use of jugs, cruets or bowls to serve olive oil was justified as necessary because of alleged "frequent" fraud in restaurants but commission officials have admitted to The Daily Telegraph that they have no evidence of the practice.

"We don't have any evidence. It is anecdotal and that was enough for the committee," said an official.

The decision has highlighted the bizarre system of Brussels regulation, known as "comitology", where binding legislation is automatically passed into law despite not having majority support among EU countries.

The outlawing of the classic, refillable glass Aceitera jugs or glazed terracotta dipping bowls led to a public outcry and many restaurateurs protested that it would end their freedom to buy olive oil from a small artisan producer or family business in favour of industrial products.

"The criticism was universal and came from consumers and restaurant owner in all EU countries," said the official.

The ban was dropped after hostile press coverage, thousands of complaints from across the EU and criticism from Holland and Germany led Jose Manuel Barroso, the commission president, whose father was a small artisanal olive oil producer, to intervene.


Friday, May 24, 2013

Plastic food packaging 'could cause high blood pressure in children'

Anything with such a funny name as phthalates has got to be suspicious!  Be that as it may, publicity seekers have been targeting phthalates for a very long time -- long enough for there to have been many official reviews of the evidence against them -- reviews which find them harmless.  But if you keep doing studies of them over and over again, you are bound to get some "positive" results by chance alone.

And don't forget the study which shows that phthalates IMPROVE male reproductive performance!  LOL

Chemicals found in common plastics could cause high blood pressure in children, according to a new study.

Exposure to the phalates used in food packaging and other items is thought to cause significant metabolic and hormonal abnormalities, especially during early development.

The American scientists who carried out the study claim flooring, plastic cups, beach balls and plastic packaging contain the colourless and odourless toxic additives that are causing a rise in cases of juvenile high blood pressure.

Analysis of nearly 3,000 children by researchers at New York University's Langone Medical Centre, in collaboration with researchers at the University of Washington and Penn State University School of Medicine, points the finger of blame squarely at a common class of pthalates for the first time.

The report, published in the Journal of Pediatrics, said exposure to DEHP (di-2-ethyhexylphthalate), which is often used in industrial food production, is responsible for elevated systolic blood pressure - a measure of pressure in the arteries when the heart beats.

Dr Leonardo Trasande, associate professor of paediatrics, environmental medicine and population health at NYU Langone Medical Centre, said: 'Phthalates can inhibit the function of cardiac cells and cause oxidative stress that compromises the health of arteries but no one has explored the relationship between phthalate exposure and heart health in children.

'We wanted to examine the link between phthalates and childhood blood pressure, in particular given the increase in elevated blood pressure in children and the increasing evidence implicating exposure to environmental chemicals in early development of disease.'

The team only recorded a small rise per child in blood pressure with every three-fold increase in the level of phthalates detected in the children's urine samples, but Dr Tresande says the wider implications of a small rise are significant.

He said: '[The] increment may seem very modest at an individual level, but on a population level such shifts in blood pressure can increase the number of children with elevated blood pressure substantially.

'An explosion in the number of obese people around the world is being blamed on a widespread threat to cardiac health and doctors are seeing an increase in the number of young people suffering from the condition.'

According to Dr Tresande their research shows it is not just bad diets to blame.

He said: 'Obesity is driving the trend but our findings suggest that environmental factors may also be a part of the problem.

'This is important because phthalate exposure can be controlled through regulatory and behavioural interventions.

'Our study underscores the need for policy initiatives that limit exposure to disruptive environmental chemicals, in combination with dietary and behavioural interventions geared toward protecting cardiovascular health.'


'Miracle ingredient' in red wine could help you live a longer and more energetic life  -- if you are an earthworm

It is the perfect excuse to raise a glass to a long and active life. Scientists from the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in France have shown that resveratrol, the ‘miracle ingredient’ in red wine, extends lifespan and provides an infusion of energy.

In this case, worms were the beneficiaries but it is thought that a similar technique could help people live longer.

Reservatrol is found in plants such as the Japanese knotweed. The findings, from scientists at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, were published in the Nature journal. They think similar results could be seen in humans

The effects of resveratrol have been studied in various studies.

In mouse and rat experiments it was shown to have anticancer, anti-inflammatory, blood sugar-lowering and other beneficial cardiovascular effects.

In humans studies, resveratrol is shown to be less effective.  Although, in one positive human trial, extremely high doses (3–5 g) of resveratrol were found to significantly lower blood sugar levels.

And with treated worms more energetic, it might be that we can also look forward to sprightly old age.

Researcher Professor Johan Auwerx said: ‘You don’t want to live longer and just sit in front of the television.  We want to have active lives.’

The Swiss researchers began by searching for genes involved in the ageing process.

By studying mice that live for different lengths of time, they hit upon three genes whose activity was key to lifespan.

When the genes only worked at half-power, the animals lived eight months longer, the journal Nature reports.

Professor Auwerx then showed that the genes also regulate longevity in worms.  There the results were even more astonishing – tinkering with the worms’ genes increasing lifespan by up to 80 per cent.

The genes make a protein that, when pumped out in high quantities, cuts lifespan.

With this in mind, Professor Auwerx turned to two widely used antibiotics that block the production of such proteins.

It was found to increase the lives of the worms tested by 60%. The worms were also more active, had greater endurance and healthier muscles

This allowed them to continue to wriggle fiercely when untreated worms had become weary.  At 13-days-old, the onset of adulthood, they moved twice as much as others.

And a week later, when the untreated worms were beginning to show their age, the difference was even more pronounced.

A final set of experiments showed that resveratrol, the ‘miracle ingredient’ in red wine uses the same mechanism to extend life.  However, the effect wasn’t as dramatic.

Professor Auwerx, of the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, said: ‘This research gives us hope not only for increasing longevity, but also for lengthening the period of adult vitality, and doing this with simple drugs as antibiotics.’

While neither long-term antibiotic use or heavy drinking advisable, the key will be to find a safe drug that is just as effective.

The professor said that it may be that such a pill would only need to be taken during a key period of life, such as puberty.

Should it ever hit the market, he believes ‘everyone will be tempted to take it’.

Other potential ‘fountains of youth’ being researched around the world include a drug that made old mice young again.

And a modern, and it is believed, safer, version of thalidomide has shown promise in boosting the odds of a healthy old age.

Some experts say the science is moving so quickly that it will soon be possible to prevent many of ills of old age.

If lives were healthier as well as longer, people could work for longer – or simply make the most of their retirement.

Increasing the number of years of healthy life would also greatly ease health service costs and reduce the burden on families of caring for sick relatives.


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Pregnant women should up iodine intake to increase child’s IQ

They probably should.  People used to get iodides with their table salt but the war on salt may leave some people deficient.  Low iodides can turn babies into cretins.  Sea salt naturally has iodides in it and other salt is usually "iodized"

Women who are pregnant or planning to have children should ensure they consume the right amount of iodine or risk their child having a low IQ, according to researchers.

A study of more than 1,000 pregnant women found those who consumed lower amounts of iodine, which is absorbed from food and found in milk, dairy products and fish, were more likely to have children with lower IQs and reading abilities.

Iodine is essential for producing hormones made by the thyroid gland, which has a direct effect on the development of the foetal brain.

The study by researchers at Bristol and Surrey universities found two thirds of the 1,040 pregnant women they tested were iodine deficient. These women were more likely to have children with lower IQs, and it was found the lower the iodine the lower the IQ and reading ability.

Professor Margaret Rayman of the University of Surrey, who led the study, said: "Our results clearly show the importance of adequate iodine status during early pregnancy, and emphasise the risk that iodine deficiency can pose to the developing infant, even in a country classified as only mildly iodine deficient."

Researchers have said pregnant women should ensure they get enough iodine by eating dairy products and fish, as well as drinking milk. But they warned against kelp supplements, as they can have ‘excessive levels’ of iodine.

The study, which has been published in The Lancet, used samples from the ‘Children of the 90s’ project, a long term health research project involving 14,000 mothers who enrolled while pregnant during 1991 and 1992. The health and development of their children has been followed ever since.

Dr Sarah Bath, a co-author and registered dietician, said: "Pregnant women and those planning a pregnancy should ensure adequate iodine intake; good dietary sources are milk, dairy products and fish. Women who avoid these foods and are seeking alternative iodine sources can consult the iodine fact sheet that we have developed, which is available on the websites of the University of Surrey and the British Dietetic Association.

"Kelp supplements should be avoided as they may have excessive levels of iodine."

An earlier study based in Tasmania, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, showed nine year olds who received insufficient iodine in the womb due to a period of deficiency in the population got lower scores on literacy tests.


Is the EU now just a satire on itself?

The EU’s latest mad ban is revealing, suggesting it doesn’t even trust ordinary people to pour their own olive oil

Is the EU just a long-running satire? Has it been a joke all along? After all, what other explanation could there be for banning olive oil in jugs in restaurants?

From 1 January 2014, restaurants and cafes will be banned from serving oil to diners in small glass jugs or dipping bowls. Instead, the oil will need to be served in pre-sealed, non-refillable bottles that must be disposed of when empty. It’s all in the interests of ‘hygiene’ and ensuring that diners aren’t short-changed by olive oil that has been diluted. Because, of course, that was a major problem. Clearly, it wasn’t good enough that diners might think ‘this olive oil isn’t very good, I might eat somewhere else next time’. No, apparently this non-problem urgently needed an excessive solution.

This wheeze was inspired by Europe’s olive-oil producers. Similar rules have been in place since 2005 in Portugal. Big producers of olive oil - the kind of firms that can afford to produce millions of small, branded bottles - will be delighted by the EU’s ban. However, it will increase costs for restaurateurs, who won’t be able to buy their oil by the barrel anymore and then pour it into a dish or jug. Lots more oil will go to waste in half-used bottles (so much for the EU’s legendary environmental concerns). Artisan olive-oil producers, who won’t want to deal in tiny bottles, will miss out, too. And who will end up coughing up for this regulation? You and me.

If the Portuguese want to indulge in such boneheaded regulation - perhaps they have a real problem on the Algarve with dodgy oil-dealing - that is for them to decide. But there is no merit in foisting such rules upon the rest of Europe. The new rule is so daft that even the Liberal Democrats - long the British branch of the EU fanclub - think it is a bad idea. Leading Lib Dem Danny Alexander, the UK treasury secretary, had to admit the new regulation was ‘pretty silly’.

Alexander defended the EU, however, by arguing that ‘silly rules are not the sole preserve of the European Union’; both Whitehall and local government have got form for pointless red tape, too, he said. That’s true, but why add another layer of unnecessary bureaucracy to the mix; another opportunity for a bunch of clueless bureaucrats to impose their policy obsessions on the rest of us? In an organisation as large as the EU, regulations become like currency, to be exchanged by one interest group with another. You can picture it now: ‘You support us in saying that X food product can only come from our region of France and we’ll support you in saying Y food product can only come from Leicestershire.’ The result? Lots more unnecessary rules imposed by people who are not accountable upon those who must abide by the rules and must pay for the costs.

It’s not just on food. For example, perverse, health-harming regulations on tobacco products are on their way, too (see The new EU directive: quit smoking or die). Or take the rules on internet ‘cookies’ - small files that identify a website user as unique in some way, store password information, and so on. EU rules in force since last year demand that websites ask you to accept these small files before continuing to use the site. Since cookies normally have little or no impact on privacy, and may even be crucial to how a website works, this is an unnecessary cost on web-based businesses and a constant irritation to website users.

These are fairly trivial examples, as it goes, but they do bring to the fore two political principles that seem alien to the EU but which the rest of us should stand up for.Thefirst principle is that individuals who make rules and regulations that impact on a society should be accountable to the people who must follow those rules - for example, through the ballot box - and should have to justify the cost of such rules against all the other demands on society’s resources. The second principle is: when in doubt, don’t regulate. We need fewer laws, not more. A consumer, a business owner or a website user is far better placed to make these micro-judgements for himself, rather than having an ‘expert’ in a committee room deciding things on his behalf.

It would be nice to be able to contrast the pen-pushing petty authoritarianism of the EU with the vibrant democracy in Europe’s individual nation states. But sadly, we can’t. Alexander is quite right that Whitehall is just as full of civil servants with bees in their bonnets about one issue or another. No doubt, citizens in other EU countries tear their hair out over the latest stupid rule imposed by their elites, too. But at least the final say on any petty new national or local law will be in the hands of an elected politician, not a political appointee like an EU commissioner. That relationship with the country’s population is at least some check on the dumber and more draconian ideas that get floated these days.

What really underpins this endless meddling is a view of individuals as being too vulnerable to act in their own interests. To the rescue, we are told, comes the state, micromanaging our lives. In order to stem the tide of this relentless regulation, we need to stand up for ourselves as autonomous individuals capable of deciding how we want to live for ourselves. As it stands, the EU has such a rancid view of its citizens that we can’t even be trusted to pour our own olive oil.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Should you be taking vitamin B to protect against Alzheimer's?


For as long as he can remember, John Hough has suffered from a poor memory. ‘I hated learning poems at school — after a few lines it had all gone,’ says the 83-year-old retired electrical engineer from Banbury.

His memory only worsened with age. ‘He’s always been forgetful,’ says Kathleen, his 80-year-old wife, who just happens to have a photographic memory. But, increasingly, she was finding herself having to remind him about things.

‘We have had our differences over memory,’ she adds diplomatically. But both are firmly agreed on one thing: the letter five years ago inviting John to take part in a trial to test whether high doses of several B vitamins could protect his ageing memory was a godsend.

For although Kathleen, a retired university lecturer in physiology, still has to remind her husband to take his vitamins, she is happy to do so ‘because I really noticed the difference when he stopped taking them’.

This has been reinforced by research published yesterday in the top journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which showed that people in the trial who got the B vitamins were almost entirely protected from the brain shrinkage suffered by those who only got a placebo pill.

A rapidly shrinking brain is one of the signs of a raised risk for Alzheimer’s. Those taking the B vitamins had 90 per cent less shrinkage in their brains.

And the research showed the areas of the brain that were protected from damage are almost exactly the same Alzheimer’s typically destroys. This ‘Alzheimer’s footprint’ includes areas that control how we learn, remember and organise our thoughts, precisely those that gradually atrophy as the ghastly disease progresses.

‘I’ve never seen results from brain scans showing this level of protection,’ says Paul Thompson, professor of neurology and head of the Imaging Genetics Center at UCLA School of Medicine, California.

He’s a leading expert in brain imaging, and his centre has the largest database of brain scans in the world. ‘We study the brain effects of all sorts of lifestyle changes — alcohol reduction, exercising more, learning to handle stress, weight loss — and a good result would be a 25 per cent reduction in shrinkage,’ he says.

In other words, the 90 per cent reduction seems really impressive. So, could the simple answer to memory problems be to take B vitamins?

The new research — part funded by the Government’s Medical Research Council — was based on data from the trial in which John took part. This was run for two years by OPTIMA (Oxford Project to Investigate Memory and Ageing) at Oxford University, and involved 271 people with early signs of a fading memory, known as mild cognitive impairment. This can be a precursor to Alzheimer’s.

The study was designed to discover whether giving high doses of three B vitamins — B6, B12 and folic acid — could slow the rate at which the participants’ memory worsened.

As well as giving the participants standard memory and cognitive tests, the researchers scanned some of the volunteers’ brains at the beginning and end of the study to see what effect, if any, there was on the rate these were shrinking.

We all lose brain cells as we get older, normally about half a per cent a year. If you have mild cognitive impairment, that rises to  1 per cent, and when Alzheimer’s sets in, the atrophy speeds up to 2½ per cent.

Why do experts think B vitamins might be the answer? The link is that they effectively help keep in check our levels of an amino acid called homocysteine. Normally we don’t have much of this because it is quickly turned into two important brain chemicals, including acetylcholine, which is essential for laying down memories.

There have been lots of studies showing that Alzheimer’s patients have unusually high levels of homocysteine in their bloodstream. They also have low levels of acetylcholine (in fact, the most common Alzheimer’s drug works by boosting acetylcholine).

So it seems that the usual conversion of homocysteine into acetylcholine is going wrong. And that’s where the  B vitamins are thought to come in.

Older people are particularly likely to be deficient in these nutrients. That’s because, as we age, our bodies become less good at getting it from food, and certain widely-used drugs, such as proton pump inhibitors for acid reflux, make the extraction process even more difficult.

So the thinking is, boost B vitamins and you boost the conversion of homocysteine into acetylcholine. Another theory is that high levels of homocysteine may actually trigger brain shrinkage.

A further reason B vitamins could help is given by Professor Teodoro Bottiglieri Baylor, at the Institute of Metabolic Disease in Dallas, Texas. ‘The link between brain deterioration — memory loss, cognitive deficits — and B vitamin deficiency is standard neurology textbook stuff,’ he says.

‘You get it with various disorders that prevent B vitamins functioning properly, such as severe alcoholism and pernicious anaemia.’

However, the Oxford trial was the first time the vitamin B theory had been tested in a proper trial. When the initial results were published in the leading journal PLoS ONE in 2010, two findings attracted a lot of attention.

First, the vitamins appeared to halve shrinkage across the whole brain compared with the brains of the people taking the placebo pill. But second, and very  significantly, the vitamins only benefited people who had a high homocysteine level — over 13 (a healthy level is said to be between about seven and ten).

‘It was a useful finding,’ says David Smith, professor emeritus of pharmacology at Oxford, and lead researcher on the trial. ‘It showed you’ll only benefit from the vitamins if your homocysteine level is high, but it also told us that when it rises above a healthy level it can damage brain cells.’

But the trial didn’t answer an important question: Does brain shrinkage make you lose your memory? It sounds very plausible that it should, and tests showed that the memory of people getting the vitamins stopped getting worse. However, the researchers couldn’t say for certain this was because their brains weren’t shrinking as quickly.

That’s where the latest study comes in. It involved a much more sophisticated analysis of the brain scans from the first study, by a new team from the Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Centre at Oxford.

This analysis showed that the protection against shrinkage was even more effective than reported  previously — not just halving it, but reducing it by 90 per cent.

The old study had looked at the whole brain; this one only looked at the effect in the Alzheimer’s footprint and found that in there, just where help was needed, the vitamins had an even greater impact.

The new study also made the connection between less shrinkage and greater cognitive improvement.

A new statistical analysis established that slowing the rate of brain  atrophy was directly responsible for slowing the rate at which the memory deteriorates.

The studies make a clear connection between too much homocysteine and poorer memory. The next step might be for homocysteine to be a new biomarker for Alzheimer’s risk, tested for and lowered if necessary.

‘The study needs to be repeated because there’s a lot to learn about why homocysteine is damaging and whether lowering it can stop people with memory problems progressing to Alzheimer’s,’ says Professor Thompson. ‘But if the results survive retesting, homocysteine level could be a useful biomarker for Alzheimer’s risk.’

So could B vitamins stop you developing Alzheimer’s? ‘We can’t tell from this research because it didn’t go on long enough,’ says Professor Smith. ‘It would cost about £6 million to do the study to prove it, but we haven’t been able to get the funding. Surely it would be well worth it.’

Dr Gwenaelle Douaud, an imaging and neuroscience expert and leader of the new study, says: ‘Slowing the progression is the Holy Grail of Alzheimer’s research.

‘We know some people with mild cognitive impairment will go on to develop Alzheimer’s and the best marker of raised risk at the moment is the amount of shrinkage in an area called the medial temporal lobe. This is right in the middle of the Alzheimer’s footprint — the area B vitamins protect.’

Professor David Smith believes it would be wrong not to offer high-dose vitamins to someone with memory problems and raised homocysteine. His published papers state that he is named as an inventor on two patents held by the University of Oxford on the use of folic acid to treat Alzheimer’s disease.

But Robin Jacoby, emeritus professor of old-age psychiatry at Oxford, who was also involved in the first study, cautions: ‘As a medical scientist I wouldn’t advise anyone to take high doses of B vitamins yet to protect their brain without first consulting their GP..

‘There is a link between high levels of folic acid and cancer, although the risk is low.’

Dr Eric Karran, director of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, also doesn’t think the evidence is good enough yet. ‘Until further trials have confirmed these findings, we would recommend people think about a healthy and balanced diet along with controlling weight and blood pressure, as well as taking exercise,’ he says.


Brain-boosting Mediterranean diet could slow down the onset of dementia more affectively than low-fat alternative

The three groups studied were virtually equal in mental performance so any effect is a slight one

Switching to a Mediterranean diet can boost and preserve brain power in old age more effectively than a low-fat diet, researchers claim.

Just six years of eating like the Spanish and Italians could also lower an individual’s risk of developing dementia, a study reveals.

The diet enjoyed by countries in southern Europe has long been thought to combat heart disease and cancer because it is rich in fruit, vegetables, fish, nuts, whole grains and olive oil.  But it is now thought to offer further benefits, such as improved brain function.

Those eating more olive oil or nuts gained higher scores when their memory, attention span and abstract thinking was tested, scientists found.

Their research involved 522 men and women aged between 55 and 80 regarded as being at a high risk of heart disease, either from type 2 diabetes or a combination of factors including blood pressure, cholesterol, obesity, family history and smoking.

Two groups were allocated a diet with either added olive oil or mixed nuts, while a third was told to follow low-fat nutrition that is normally recommended to prevent heart attacks and strokes.

After an average of 6.5 years, they were assessed for signs of declining brain power using a range of mental tests. Of the 60 who developed signs of brain impairment – an early indicator of dementia – 23 had followed the low-fat regime, while 18 had taken olive oil and 19 were on the nut diet.

A further 35 people developed dementia – 17 of which were on the low fat diet, 12 on olive oil and six on nuts.

Those on Mediterranean  diets also achieved significantly higher average mental test scores compared with those on low fat meals.

The findings held true irrespective of factors such as age, family history of dementia, education, exercise levels, blood vessel health and depression.

Researchers from the University of Navarra, Spain, who published the findings online in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, claim it is the first long-term trial to look at the impact of the Mediterranean diet on brain power.

Study leader Professor Miguel Martinez-Gonzalez said: ‘Our findings support increasing evidence on the protective effects of the Mediterranean diet on cognitive function.’

Olive oil is known to contain omega-6 fats – ‘healthy’ polyunsaturates that can combat conditions such as heart disease and arthritis and help reduce blood pressure.

Other research has also linked olive oil to lower rates of the bone-weakening condition osteoporosis in the Mediterranean, where people also eat less red meat and dairy products, compared with northern Europe.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Depression increases stroke risk in women

Maybe the ones concerned were in poor health anyway and that made them depressed?

Middle-aged women who suffer from depression are almost twice as likely to suffer a stroke, according to a new study.

The 12-year Australian study involved more than 10,000 women, aged between 47 and 52.

Researchers said it was unclear why such a strong link between depression and stroke had been found, but that it was possible that inflammatory and immunological responses to depression could have an impact on blood vessels.

The study found that depressed women had a 2.4 times increased risk of stroke, compared to those who weren’t depressed, which reduced to 1.9 times the risk when other factors increasing stroke risk were excluded.

Study author Doctor Caroline Jackson, an epidemiologist in the School of Population Health at the University of Queensland in Australia, said: “When treating women, doctors need to recognise the serious nature of poor mental health and what effects it can have in the long term.

“Current guidelines for stroke prevention tend to overlook the potential role of depression.”

The research is the first large-scale study in which scientists examined the association between depression and stroke in younger middle-aged women.

The researchers said that although the increased stroke risk associated with depression was large, the absolute risk of stroke is still fairly low for women of that age.

About 1.5 per cent of all women in the study suffered a stroke.

Dr Jackson said similar results could be expected among European and American women.

She added: “We may need more targeted approaches to prevent and treat depression among younger women, because it could have a much stronger impact on stroke for them now rather than later in life.”

The findings were published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Dr Clare Walton, from charity the Stroke Association said: “Past research has suggested that depression may increase your risk of stroke and this study adds further evidence to this. People with depression may be less motivated to maintain good health or take medications correctly which could put them at greater risk. However, it’s very difficult to determine whether one directly causes the other.”


Study: Marijuana causes “complete remission” of Crohn’s Disease

Sounds great

Marijuana – scientific name “cannabis” – performed like a champ in the first-ever placebo-controlled trial of the drug to treat Crohn’s Disease, also known as inflammatory bowel disease.

The disease of the digestive tract afflicts 400,000 – 600,000 people in North America alone causing abdominal pain, diarrhea (which can be bloody), severe vomiting, weight loss, as well as secondary skin rashes, arthritis, inflammation of the eye, tiredness, and lack of concentration.

Smoking pot caused a “complete remission” of Crohn’s disease compared to placebo in half the patients who lit up for eight weeks, according to clinical trial data to be published the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

Researchers at Israel’s Meir Medical Center took 21 people with intractable, severe Crohn’s disease and gave 11 of them two joints a day for eight weeks. “The standardized cannabis cigarettes” contained 23 percent THC and 0.5 percent CBD (cannabidiol). (Such marijuana is available on dispensary shelves in San Francisco, Oakland, and other cities that have regulated access to the drug.) The other ten subjects smoked placebo cigarettes containing no active cannabinoids.

Investigators reported that smoking weed caused a “complete remission” of Crohn’s Disease in five of the 11 subjects. Another five of the eleven test subjects saw their Crohn’s Disease symptoms cut in half. Furthermore, “subjects receiving cannabis reported improved appetite and sleep, with no significant side effects.”

The study is the first placebo-controlled clinical trial to assess the consumption of cannabis for the treatment of Crohn’s, notes NORML. All of the patients had intractable forms of the disease and did not respond to conventional treatments. Still, the United States government claims that marijuana is as dangerous as heroin and has no medical use. U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag is waging a war on safe access to medical cannabis in the Bay Area.


Monday, May 20, 2013

Fish oil 'can restore the brain after junk food': Diets rich in omega-3s play key role in reversing damage caused by high fats (?)

This is just the latest obeisance in the fish oil religion.  They have no new data, just a literature survey.  As computer people say, Garbage in, garbage out

Fish oil can counter the negative effect junk food has on the brain, say scientists.

More than a decade of research has shown that high-fat diets can impact the brain by disrupting 'neurogenesis', a process that generates new nerve cells.

Now University of Liverpool researchers have discovered that diets rich in omega-3s, such as fish oil, can prevent these negative effects by stimulating the area of the brain that controls feeding, learning and memory.

The team from the University's Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease originally set out to look at research from across to world to see whether the data suggested that omega-3s had a role to play in aiding weight loss.

However, although data from the 185 research papers indicated fish oils do not have a direct impact on this process, it found that they play a significant role in reversing the damage high fats can cause the brain.

Researcher Dr Lucy Pickavance explained: 'Body weight is influenced by many factors, and some of the most important of these are the nutrients we consume.

'Excessive intake of certain macronutrients, the refined sugars and saturated fats found in junk food, can lead to weight gain, disrupt metabolism and even affect mental processing.

'These changes can be seen in the brain's structure, including its ability to generate new nerve cells, potentially linking obesity to neurodegenerative diseases.

'Research, however, has suggested that omega-3 fish oils can reverse or even prevent these effects. We wanted to investigate the literature on this topic to determine whether there is evidence to suggest that omega-3s might aid weight loss by stimulating particular brain processes.'

The research papers showed that on high-fat diets hormones that are usually secreted from body tissues into the circulation after eating - which protect neurons and stimulate their growth - are prevented from passing into the brain by increased circulation of inflammatory molecules and a type of fat called triglycerides.

Molecules that stimulate nerve growth are also reduced.

But it appears - in studies with animal models - that omega-3s restore normal function by interfering with the production of these inflammatory molecules, suppressing triglycerides, and returning these nerve growth factors to normal.

Dr Pickavance added: 'Fish oils don't appear to have a direct impact on weight loss, but they may take the brakes off the detrimental effects of some of the processes triggered in the brain by high-fat diets.

'They seem to mimic the effects of calorie restrictive diets and including more oily fish or fish oil supplements in our diets could certainly be a positive step forward for those wanting to improve their general health.'


Medical use of Cannabis and MS

Like many of those facing a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, Barry Rudd was willing to try anything to be well again.

The property developer from Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, had been an avid three-times-a-week gym-goer when, in 2004, he was given the devastating news.

Just 53 at the time, he had started feeling tired, and his foot began dragging when he walked. After being referred to a neurologist in June 2005, the diagnosis was finally given: primary progressive multiple sclerosis.

One of the more uncommon forms of the disease, affecting only 15 per cent of sufferers, it causes a steady decline as symptoms worsen.

The condition, in which the immune system attacks the central nervous system, slowly robs sufferers of their balance, movement and speech, causing stiffness, numbness, insomnia, pain and exhaustion.

There was little doctors could do to help Barry and he was drawn by desperation into the murky world of alternative medicine – paying more than £20,000 for bogus treatments in Holland and Poland that had no effect on his condition.

Finally, in late 2010 he saw an article online about a new drug called Sativex. The oral spray is derived from the cannabis plant – but without any of the associated dangers or side effects – and works by dampening down the over-activity in the nervous system that damages the muscles, inhibiting movement.

‘I mentioned it to my neurologist, who said, “You can’t get it in this area. If you want it you have to buy it privately.” So he gave me a private prescription. I went to my local chemist who charged me £550.’

The supply lasted just six weeks, but the effects were almost immediate. ‘Within a few days I could feel the benefit and after a couple of weeks my symptoms were almost completely gone. I’d say I was 80 per cent better,’ says Barry.

But, unable to get an NHS prescription, after three months Barry could no longer afford the treatment. His symptoms flooded back. To add to his misery, he found that a few miles away at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, MS patients with symptoms similar to his are being prescribed the drug.

According to Dr Willy Notcutt, consultant in pain management at James Paget Hospital in Great Yarmouth, Sativex can not only alleviate existing problems but could hold back the progression of MS.

‘Sativex is licensed only for the relief of spasticity [tightness in the muscles that affect movement] and found effective in half of cases,’ he says. ‘Many patients have discovered what Barry did: it also relieves other symptoms, such as chronic insomnia.’

A major review of trials last December concluded there was insufficient evidence to warrant Sativex’s routine use with MS, yet Dr Notcutt is convinced of its effectiveness.

‘We found that patients have substantially improved sleep,’ he says. ‘Studies on animals have shown some reduction in disease progression. We know it has an effect on protecting the nervous system.’

The problems have arisen because of the way certain clinical commissioning groups (CCGs – the bodies that have replaced primary care trusts) do their sums. A single bottle costing £125 will contain 90 sprays.

The drug has not yet been assessed by the NHS guidance body, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence – which means funding decisions are not uniform across CCGs.

The result is that it is not being prescribed widely. Earlier this year, British charity the MS Society found that just two in 100 patients were using a symptom-reducing treatment such as Sativex.

Laura Weir, Head of Policy and Campaigns at the MS Society, says: ‘We know that Sativex is not being prescribed in some areas and in other areas it is. We think this is down to CCGs making their own decisions at a local level.’

In 2011 the Midlands Therapeutic Review and Advisory Committee – an independent advisory group that provides guidance on pharmaceutical treatments in the West Midlands – recommended against prescribing Sativex, stating there was ‘inadequate evidence for efficacy and/or safety’.

Weir insists: ‘Their decision, which has triggered similar ones elsewhere, is based on inaccurate analysis of the data, and on the cost impact of the treatment rather than cost effectiveness. We wrote to them to highlight this but the committee has not reviewed the policy.

‘Prescription rates for Sativex in the UK are low. It is a licensed treatment for MS and has undergone extensive clinical testing that found it to be safe and effective. We strongly believe eligible people should be given the opportunity to try treatments that could benefit them.’

Barry turned to a nurse for advice. ‘She told me other patients buy cannabis and mix it into cakes.’

He refuses to consider this option. ‘If there’s a drug that’s legal – Sativex – and that works for me, why can’t I get it on the NHS? The future for me looks grim.’

Dr Notcutt is equally angry. He says: ‘When you find patients, as I have, whose lives are transformed by this drug you’re left wondering: are we prepared as a society to leave people in often agonising pain? Or do we provide them with a medicine that might help them?’


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Men who take prescription painkillers are 50% more likely to develop erectile dysfunction

Men who regularly take prescription painkillers have an increased risk of developing erectile dysfunction, according to a new study.

Researchers found that regularly taking opioids, including codeine, increased a man’s risk of the condition.

The study, published in the journal Spine, revealed that 19 per cent of men who took high-dose opioids for at least four months developed ED.  In comparison, seven per cent of men who do not take opioids suffer from ED.

Therefore, people taking opioids are more than 50 per cent more likely to develop ED than those who are not taking the medication.

The most commonly used prescription opioids are hydrocodone, oxycodone, and morphine.

The study of 11,000 men with back pain also showed that men over the age of 60 are much more likely to develop ED than younger men are.

‘Men who take opioid pain medications for an extended period of time have the highest risk of ED,’ said lead author Richard Deyo, investigator with the Kaiser Permanente Centre for Health Research and Professor of Evidence-based Family Medicine at Oregon Health & Science University.

He added: ‘This doesn't mean that these medications cause ED, but the association is something patients and clinicians should be aware of when deciding if opioids should be used to treat back pain.

‘There is no question that for some patients opioid use is appropriate, but there is also increasing evidence that long-term use can lead to addiction, fatal overdoses, sleep apnea, falls in the elderly, reduced hormone production, and now erectile dysfunction.’

Researchers found that age was the factor most significantly associated with receiving ED prescriptions. Men aged between 60 and 69 were 14 times more likely to receive prescriptions for ED medication than men aged 18 to 29.

Depression and use of sedative hypnotics like benzodiazepines also increased the likelihood that a man would develop ED.


Coffee is more than just a hangover pick-me-up as it also fights the effects of alcohol

This relies on self-report so is rather shaky

It is the perfect pick-me-up for the morning after the night before.  Now new research shows that a mug of coffee can do more for a bleary-eyed reveller than simply lift a hangover.

Finnish scientists have found that a steady stream of the black stuff can offset some of the harmful effects of alcohol too.

Five or more cups of coffee a day can slash levels of an enzyme known to be a precursor to liver damage, heart disease and diabetes by up to 50 per cent, especially in men.

Last night, experts welcomed the findings. Andrew Langford, chief executive of the British Liver Trust, said: ‘Many people do tend to reach for a coffee after a night out drinking and here is evidence of its beneficial effects.

‘Of course, you should try to avoid the situation of having too much alcohol in the first place but the five-cups-a-day message is worth bearing in mind. 

‘The next step is for a large-scale study to be undertaken in the UK too so the healing effects of coffee can be proven even closer to home.’

Regular alcohol consumption is known to increase levels in the body of GGT, an enzyme which is a risk factor in a range of illnesses.

Academics at Tampere University and Finland’s National Institute for Health and Welfare studied nearly 19,000 people over a decade.  They quizzed them on their health, medical history and intake of alcohol and coffee and measured their levels of GGT.

Their report, published in the journal Alcohol And Alcoholism, concludes: ‘Consumption of over 280g of ethanol per week [13.5 pints of beer or 3.7 bottles of wine] was found to lead to an approximate threefold increase in GGT activities when compared with the corresponding group of abstainers.

‘Regular consumption of five or more cups of coffee per day in this subpopulation was in turn associated with an approximate 50 per cent reduction in GGT activities.

‘Taken together, our findings suggest that high intake of coffee leads to lower GGT levels in heavy alcohol consumers, particularly, among men.’

Professor Roger Williams of the Foundation for Liver Research in London said: ‘Past research has shown that certain of the organic chemicals in coffee have been found to have a favourable effect on the processes of liver injury and I imagine that is what is being shown in the heavy drinkers here.’

And, last night, the coffee industry claimed the beverage is now losing its reputation for giving drinkers nothing more than a caffeine rush.

Dr Euan Paul of the British Coffee Association added: ‘It is one of the most heavily researched products in the world today.

‘Other scientific studies have shown that four to five cups per day may be associated with other health benefits, such as reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

‘All of this contributes to the growing body of evidence that coffee, when drunk in moderation, is safe and part of a healthy diet.’


Friday, May 17, 2013

Being a boy is NOT a mental illness

It's normal for a boy to be always running and to try to climb every tree he sees

Drinking just one can of fizzy drink a day increases the risk of painful kidney stones by a QUARTER

The usual epidemiological rubbish.  Poor people drink more Coke and also have worse health. The Coke does nothing.  It's just a poverty marker

Drinking a can of fizzy drink a day could increase the risk of kidney stones by almost a quarter, new research shows. The study found that drinking sugar-sweetened drinks makes the painful stones more likely to develop.

Other drinks - such as coffee, tea and orange juice - reduced the risk, the research by Brigham and Women's Hospital, in Boston, U.S., found.

Dr Gary Curhan said in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology: ‘Our study found that the relation between fluid intake and kidney stones may be dependent on the type of beverage consumed.

‘We found that higher consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks was associated with a higher incidence of kidney stones.’

About three in 20 British men and one in 20 women develop a kidney stone at some stage in their life, and they are often advised to drink more fluids to prevent them reforming.

But Dr Curhan said the new study shows some drinks may be more beneficial than others.

His team studied data from 194,095 patients over an eight year period.

They found that those who consumed one or more sugar-sweetened cola servings per day had a 23 per cent higher chance of developing kidney stones compared with those participants consuming less than one serving per week.

This was true for consuming sugar-sweetened non-cola drinks as well, such as punch.

They also found that some beverages, such as coffee, tea and orange juice, were associated with a lower risk of stone formation.

Co-author, Dr Pietro Manuel Ferraro, of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Rome, said: ‘Our prospective study confirms that some beverages are associated with a lower risk of kidney stone formation, whereas others are associated with a higher risk.

‘Although higher total fluid intake reduces the risk of stone formation, this information about individual beverages may be useful for general practitioners seeking to implement strategies to reduce stone formation in their patients.’


Thursday, May 16, 2013

How we start being 'fattist' at four: Study finds children would not think of overweight person as a potential friend

This very early emergence of a dislike for fat is consistent with it being genetically inherited.  Fat cavemen could not run fast so were poor hunters and were scorned for that.  The "war on obesity" can be seen then as following an inherited emotional reflex, not any rational judgment.  Only thus can we explain that the war continues even though we now know that  people of middling weight live the longest.  An alleged health crusade is nothing of the sort

They struggle to read or even tie their shoelaces.  But four-year-old children have already learnt to dislike fat people.

A study of 126 boys and girls who had just started school showed they were loath to think of an overweight story book character as a potential friend.

However, they had no qualms about ‘befriending’ the same character when he was of normal weight or disabled.

The Leeds University researchers said it seems that even very young children have picked up on the prejudice against fat people that pervades society.

Professor Andrew Hill read boys and girls who aged between four and six one of three versions of a specially-commissioned children’s book.

The story described a group of children and what happened when Toby, their ‘really naughty’ cat, got stuck in a tree.

In each case, the storyline was the same.  However, the pictures varied, with Alfie, the main character, depicted as being of normal weight, overweight or disabled.

The schoolchildren, who were in reception class and year one, were then asked to rate Alfie’s attributes.

Fat Alfie was less likely to win a race, do well at school, be happy with his looks and get invited to parties than normal-weight Alfie.

The Alfie who was in a wheelchair was also marked down but not to the same extent.

Most tellingly, hardly any of the children said they’d want fat Alfie as a friend.

Only one of the 43 children read the fat Alfie version of the book chose him as a potential pal.

A female version of the story produced a similar result, with just two of 30 children saying they’d want to play with fat Alfina.

The results of the study, the first to show that children of such a young age stigmatise those who are fat, were presented at European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool.

Professor Hill said: ‘This research confirms young children’s awareness of the huge societal interest in body size.

‘It shows that by school entry age, UK children have taken on board the negativity associated with fatness and report its penalties in terms of appearance, school activities and socially.

‘This negativity was shared by another visibly different characterisation, a child in a wheelchair, but to a far smaller extent.

‘But there was some evidence that older children expressed more negative views.’

He said that with parents of obese children saying their youngsters are already socially isolated at the age of five, such views could underpin weight-related bullying and victimisation.

The professor said that he believes the youngsters are picking up on a prejudice towards obesity that is all around them, from the opinions of their parents to TV shows which ‘ridicule’ the fat.

He added: ‘I think we have an underlying social commentary about weight and morals and that the morality of people is based on their shape.

‘I think that is very powerful and kids are sensitive to it.’

Professor John Wilding, of the UK Association for the study of Obesity, said: ‘I think it matters because we know that the social stigma associated with weight problems is quite significant.

‘It is reflected in reduced employment opportunities and all sorts of other aspects of life.

‘If these stereotypes are starting in childhood, it is going to be very hard to reverse them.

‘I guess we need to think about how to change that in society.’


No Benefit Seen in Sharp Limits on Salt in Diet

Nasty of me to say it but I'll say it anyway:  "I told you so"

In a report that undercuts years of public health warnings, a prestigious group convened by the government says there is no good reason based on health outcomes for many Americans to drive their sodium consumption down to the very low levels recommended in national dietary guidelines.

Those levels, 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day, or a little more than half a teaspoon of salt, were supposed to prevent heart attacks and strokes in people at risk, including anyone older than 50, blacks and people with high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease — groups that make up more than half of the American population.

Some influential organizations, including the American Heart Association, have said that everyone, not just those at risk, should aim for that very low sodium level. The heart association reaffirmed that position in an interview with its spokesman on Monday, even in light of the new report.

But the new expert committee, commissioned by the Institute of Medicine at the behest of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said there was no rationale for anyone to aim for sodium levels below 2,300 milligrams a day. The group examined new evidence that had emerged since the last such report was issued, in 2005.

“As you go below the 2,300 mark, there is an absence of data in terms of benefit and there begin to be suggestions in subgroup populations about potential harms,” said Dr. Brian L. Strom, chairman of the committee and a professor of public health at the University of Pennsylvania. He explained that the possible harms included increased rates of heart attacks and an increased risk of death.

The committee was not asked to specify an optimal amount of sodium and did not make any recommendations about how much people should consume. Dr. Strom said people should not eat too much salt, but he also said that the data on the health effects of sodium were too inconsistent for the committee to say what the upper limit of sodium consumption should be.

Until about 2006, almost all studies on salt and health outcomes relied on the well-known fact that blood pressure can drop slightly when people eat less salt. From that, and from other studies linking blood pressure to risks of heart attacks and strokes, researchers created models showing how many lives could be saved if people ate less salt.

The United States dietary guidelines, based on the 2005 Institute of Medicine report, recommend that the general population aim for sodium levels of 1,500 to 2,300 milligrams a day because those levels will not raise blood pressure. The average sodium consumption in the United States, and around the world, is about 3,400 milligrams a day, according to the Institute of Medicine — an amount that has not changed in decades.

But more recently, researchers began looking at the actual consequences of various levels of salt consumption, as found in rates of heart attacks, strokes and death, not just blood pressure readings. Some of what they found was troubling.

One 2008 study the committee examined, for example, randomly assigned 232 Italian patients with aggressively treated moderate to severe congestive heart failure to consume either 2,760 or 1,840 milligrams of sodium a day, but otherwise to consume the same diet. Those consuming the lower level of sodium had more than three times the number of hospital readmissions — 30 as compared with 9 in the higher-salt group — and more than twice as many deaths — 15 as compared with 6 in the higher-salt group.

Another study, published in 2011, followed 28,800 subjects with high blood pressure ages 55 and older for 4.7 years and analyzed their sodium consumption by urinalysis. The researchers reported that the risks of heart attacks, strokes, congestive heart failure and death from heart disease increased significantly for those consuming more than 7,000 milligrams of sodium a day and for those consuming fewer than 3,000 milligrams of sodium a day.

There are physiological consequences of consuming little sodium, said Dr. Michael H. Alderman, a dietary sodium expert at Albert Einstein College of Medicine who was not a member of the committee. As sodium levels plunge, triglyceride levels increase, insulin resistance increases, and the activity of the sympathetic nervous system increases. Each of these factors can increase the risk of heart disease.

“Those are all bad things,” Dr. Alderman said. “A health effect can’t be predicted by looking at one physiological consequence. There has to be a net effect.”

Medical and public health experts responded to the new assessment of the evidence with elation or concern, depending on where they stand in the salt debates.

“What they have done is earth-shattering,” Dr. Alderman said. “They have changed the paradigm of this issue. Until now it was all about blood pressure. Now they say it is more complicated.” The report, he predicted, “will have a big impact.”

But Bonnie Liebman, director of nutrition at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group that has taken a strong position against excessive salt consumption, worried that the public would get the wrong message.  “It would be a shame if this report convinced people that salt doesn’t matter,” Ms. Liebman said.

The American Heart Association agrees with her. Dr. Elliott Antman, a spokesman for the association and a professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital n Boston, said the association remained concerned about the large amount of sodium in processed foods, which makes it almost impossible for most Americans to cut back. People should aim for 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day, he said.

“The American Heart Association is not changing its position,” Dr. Antman said. The association rejects the Institute of Medicine’s conclusions because the studies on which they were based had methodological flaws, he said. The heart association’s advice to consume 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day, he added, is based on epidemiological data and studies that assessed the effects of sodium consumption on blood pressure.

The Institute of Medicine committee said it was well aware of flaws in many of the studies of sodium, especially ones that the previous Institute of Medicine committee relied on for its 2005 recommendations. Much of that earlier research, committee members said, looked for correlations between what people ate and their health. But people with different diets can differ in many ways that are hard to account for — for example, the amount of exercise they get. And relying on people’s recall of how much salt they consumed can be unreliable.

Even the ways previous studies defined high and low sodium consumption varied widely.

“In one study, it was high if it hit 2,700 milligrams a day. In another study, it was high if it hit 10,000 milligrams a day,” said Cheryl A. M. Anderson, a committee member who is an associate professor of family and preventive medicine at the University of California, San Diego.

The committee said it found more recent studies, published since 2005, that were more careful and rigorous. Much of the new research found adverse effects on the lower end of the sodium scale and none showed a benefit from consuming very little salt.

Although the advice to restrict sodium to 1,500 milligrams a day has been enshrined in dietary guidelines, it never came from research on health outcomes, Dr. Strom said. Instead, it is the lowest sodium consumption can go if a person eats enough food to get sufficient calories and nutrients to live on. As for the 2,300-milligram level, that was the highest sodium levels could go before blood pressure began inching up.

In its 2005 report, the Institute of Medicine’s committee said that sodium consumption between 1,500 and 2,300 milligrams a day would not raise blood pressure.

That range, Dr. Strom said, “was taken by other groups and set in stone.” Those other groups included the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services, which formulated dietary guidelines in 2005.

But those dietary guidelines will soon be revised, with new recommendations to be issued in 2015.