Friday, August 30, 2013

Food addiction DOES exist: Sugar-laden junk activates the same region of the brain affected by heroin and cocaine (?)

The usual naive logic.  It would be more reasonable to say that cocaine mimics the brain effects of food

But the study didn't look at that anyway.  It is far more amusing.  They gave people food that is quickly absorbed and food that is slowly absorbed. They found that the brain activity associated with food eating was greater with the rapidly absorbed food.  What did they expect?  It was a bit like "discovering" that grass is green

It has long been disputed whether or not food can really be classed as addictive but new research has suggested that it really is.

Some experts believe that it is not appropriate to term food as 'addictive' as it is essential to life and not something that people can be weaned off.

But a new study has found that high sugar snacks activate areas of brain that are also stimulated by hard drugs such as cocaine and heroin.

The research, carried out by the Harvard Medical School, sought to understand why so many people who strongly desire to reach a normal, healthy weight are unable to do so.

Dr Belinda Lennerz, who led the study and reported on it in The Conversation, said a that in theory, weight reduction should be simple  - just cutting down on the number of calories consumed should be easy, yet most dieters continue to overeat.

Dr Lennerz and her colleagues wanted to know whether overeating was perpetuated by processed, tasty food, especially those with a high glycaemic index.

High glycaemic index foods include refined starches and concentrated sugar and cause a rapid rise and fall in blood sugar after consumption. This triggers hunger and sometimes irritability.

The study involved creating two milkshakes - one with a high, and one with a low glycaemic index.

The milkshakes were otherwise identical, with similar calories and taste.

The drinks were then given to 12 healthy, overweight men on different days and in random order.

Four hours after the high glycaemic index shake, participants were hungrier than those who had consumed the low glycaemic index shake.

Experts also carried out functional MRI imaging on all participants.  The images revealed intense activation of the nucleus accumbens, a critical brain area in the dopaminergic, mesolimbic system that mediates pleasure eating, reward and craving.

Similar activation patterns have been found in people after consumption of addictive substances, such as heroin and cocaine.

Dr Lennerz said that their findings 'provide qualified support for the possibility of food addiction'.

She added: 'While food is necessary for life, we eat for reasons beyond our daily energy needs. When overeating becomes a pattern that is hard to break, we say someone is "addicted" to food.'

Finally Dr Lennerz concluded that while more research is needed to examine the concept of food addiction, 'the fact that a food may affect addiction centres in the brain, independent of calories or pleasure, provides the basis to rethink current dietary recommendations'.

Effects of dietary glycemic index on brain regions related to reward and craving in men

Lennerz BS et al.


Qualitative aspects of diet influence eating behavior, but the physiologic mechanisms for these calorie-independent effects remain speculative.

We examined effects of the glycemic index (GI) on brain activity in the late postprandial period after a typical intermeal interval.

With the use of a randomized, blinded, crossover design, 12 overweight or obese men aged 18-35 y consumed high- and low-GI meals controlled for calories, macronutrients, and palatability on 2 occasions. The primary outcome was cerebral blood flow as a measure of resting brain activity, which was assessed by using arterial spin-labeling functional magnetic resonance imaging 4 h after test meals. We hypothesized that brain activity would be greater after the high-GI meal in prespecified regions involved in eating behavior, reward, and craving.

Incremental venous plasma glucose (2-h area under the curve) was 2.4-fold greater after the high- than the low-GI meal (P = 0.0001). Plasma glucose was lower (mean ± SE: 4.7 ± 0.14 compared with 5.3 ± 0.16 mmol/L; P = 0.005) and reported hunger was greater (P = 0.04) 4 h after the high- than the low-GI meal. At this time, the high-GI meal elicited greater brain activity centered in the right nucleus accumbens (a prespecified area; P = 0.0006 with adjustment for multiple comparisons) that spread to other areas of the right striatum and to the olfactory area.

Compared with an isocaloric low-GI meal, a high-GI meal decreased plasma glucose, increased hunger, and selectively stimulated brain regions associated with reward and craving in the late postprandial period, which is a time with special significance to eating behavior at the next meal.


Violent video games such as Grand Theft Auto DON'T harm children - and could actually be therapeutic, claim experts

This is an old chestnut and the conclusions are familiar but evidence will never stop the mouths of attention -seekers and do-gooders like the nasty little baroness Greenfied

Playing violent video games such as Grand Theft Auto and Mortal Kombat do not harm children and could actually be therapeutic, according to a new study.

Even in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or depression, researchers found there was no evidence to suggest the games had a negative effect upon their personality.

The findings contradict suggestions that violent video games can contribute to bullying, physical fighting, criminal assaults and even murder.

Clinical psychologist Dr Ferguson studied 377 children, who had an average age of 13 and who were suffering some form of elevated attention deficit or depressive symptoms, to see if violent video games made them more angry or aggressive.

His team at Stetson University, Florida, found that there was 'no evidence that violent video games increase bullying or delinquent behaviour among vulnerable youth with clinically elevated mental health symptoms.'

Instead they found that in some cases playing the violent games was cathartic, helping to reduce their aggressive tendencies and bullying behaviour.

The results, published in Springer’s Journal of Youth and Adolescence, reflect a recent report by the American Secret Service which linked aggressiveness and stress with youth violence rather than playing violent video games.

However the question remains whether the games play a role in the most appalling cases of youth violence, like that of Sandy Hook where 28 women and children were murdered by 20-year-old military game fan Adam Lanza.  Mr Lanza reportedly spent hours each day on video games including Call of Duty.

The general results of their study could not be used to explain these extreme cases explained Dr Fergusson.

He said: 'Statistically speaking it would actually be more unusual if a youth delinquent or shooter did not play violent video games, given that the majority of youth and young men play such games at least occasionally.'


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Gluten  sensitivity:  Fact or fad?

Gluten sensitivity clearly does exist as an aspect of Coeliac disease but it would seem that it is also sometimes a neurotic reaction to life problems.  Get your romantic life right (for instance) and the gluten sensitivity disappears

Gluten-free is a big buzzword with big bucks behind it. In 2010, the global market for gluten-free products was worth $2.5 billion. Over the next five years, it is expected to grow to more than $5 billion.  But, how much of the buzz behind being gluten-free is bona fide?

A new study raises questions about the hype surrounding the gluten-free phenomenon. According to the study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, titled Nonceliac Gluten Sensitivity: Sense or Sensibility?, there are 4598 Google citations of noncoeliac gluten sensitivity for every science journal article about the condition.

"Considerable debate about noncoeliac gluten sensitivity has recently surfaced on the internet, with a sharp increase in forums, patients or patient groups, manufacturers, and physicians advocating a gluten-free diet," the study's authors said. "Claims seem to increase daily, with no adequate scientific support to back them up."

The researchers acknowledge that "recent studies support the existence of a new condition, noncoeliac gluten sensitivity", but say gluten may not be the problem in a lot of the sensitivity that patients feel.

Gluten is found in products that contain wheat, rye and barley. In the study, the researchers noted that other ingredients in wheat flour or wheat-based foods may actually be causing symptoms that might be attributed to gluten sensitivity.

Yet, another study was specifically designed to establish whether gluten or fructans, which are another component in wheat, was the culprit. In the study, subjects were given bread and muffins that were low in starch. One batch of the bread and muffins contained gluten, the other did not.

The study found that gluten itself may trigger gut symptoms and fatigue in individuals who do not have coeliac disease.

"There was a clear difference in symptoms [between those who had the muffins with gluten and those who didn't]," says co-author of the study and Director of Medicine at the Angliss Hospital in Melbourne, Dr Evan Newnham. "There's a perception that [gluten-free] is a fad and that gluten is an evil food. But trials [like these] establish that it might be a clinical and medical problem."

Indeed, an essay published in the BioMed Central Journal says that gluten is "toxic" to humans and predicts that gluten-related problems are set to rise.

Since the introduction of grains containing gluten to the human diet about 10,000 years ago, selective breeding has seen the gluten content of wheat rise considerably to make it more palatable. The offshoot of this is that it is more harmful to humans. "Wheat varieties grown for thousands of years and mostly used for human nutrition up to the middle ages ... contain less quantities of the highly toxic 33-mer gluten peptide."

The authors say that our gastrointestinal and immunological responses have not adapted and so we remain "largely vulnerable to the toxic effects of this protein complex ... All individuals, even those with a low degree risk, are therefore susceptible to some form of gluten reaction during their life span."

But, because it is only in the last decade that coeliac disease and gluten sensitivities (for which doctors cannot test) have moved into the spotlight the research is still in its infancy. Which makes the distinction between how much is fact or fad a challenging call to make.

And it is not just the medical professionals debating the issue.

Mia Freedman recently expressed her exasperation in a post titled: "Does anyone eat anything anymore?". In the blog, she quotes nutritionist, Joanna McMillan.

"Some people cannot tolerate gluten yet suddenly everyone thinks gluten is bad. The truth is: it is modern refined foods that are causing most of our health problems. Not the individual components of food. We're missing the point."

"It never used to be like this," Freedman says. "Nobody had an intolerance when I was a kid, let alone wanted one."

In response, blogger and author, Sarah Wilson wrote an article titled "What's with all the gluten intolerances?? let me explain..."

"The short form: gluten is a poison," she says. "We tolerate it, and tolerate it, like cigarettes in the lungs. And then. One day. It's too much. Things tip over and BANG we have lung cancer. Or gluten intolerance. Or coeliac's disease."

Wilson also points out that we eat more wheat than ever before and cites the Pottinger cats theory as a possible explanation for the growth of gluten-related problems.

Over a period of ten years, Pottinger conducted a series of diet experiements on cats. "He found the illnesses (including infertility and the same degenerative diseases we're now seeing in humans) took several generations to kick in. And that it took four generations again of being fed good food for normal health to be restored," Wilson said.

"The point being...intolerances haven't just suddenly happened now. They've built up and accumulated over the generations. Our grandparents started eating processed, high-wheat and gluten diets. Now we're copping it."

There is something to this, says Newnham. "Environment, awareness...genes and how [previous generations] have eaten all have a role," he says. "The difficulty is to tease it all out."

Teasing out is exactly what the medical profession is now attempting to do. "While [gluten sensitivities] are anecdotally common, the medical community has been slow on the uptake," Newnham says. "On the whole we do tolerate [gluten], but it's increasingly recognised that there is a subset of the population that doesn't. What we don't know is the prevalence...[it] still needs more research"

If you do believe gluten is causing you problems, Newnham does not see a problem with going gluten-free provided it is done under the supervision of a dietitian or doctor. "But, I'd just like to emphasise that before embarking on a gluten-free diet ensure you don't have coeliac disease. Complications can ensue [if you do] and you can find out with a simple blood test or endoscopy."


Kentucky students to first lady Michelle Obama: Your food ‘tastes like vomit’

Students in a rural Kentucky county — and their parents — are the latest to join a growing national chorus of scorn for the healthy school lunches touted by first lady Michelle Obama.

“They say it tastes like vomit,” said Harlan County Public Schools board member Myra Mosley at a contentious board meeting last week, reports The Harlan Daily Enterprise.

The growing body of USDA meal regulations implemented by the Department of Agriculture under the “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010″ has long been a signature issue for the first lady.

Denizens of Harlan County don’t much care, though. Their primary concern at the board meeting was a bevy of complaints that local children are starving at lunch — and for the remainder of the school day — because the food on offer in the cafeteria is crappy and there isn’t nearly enough of it.

“Kids can’t learn when they’re hungry!” parents shouted to the board, according to the Enterprise.

Other gripes involved the new bread, which students don’t want to eat because it’s brown wheat bread, and the new milk, which is skim or one percent fat, not two percent or whole. The cafeteria’s chocolate- and strawberry-flavored milk offerings are now nonfat.

Jack Miniard, the school district’s director of school and community nutrition, was on hand to explain that the federal government now governs both food choices and portion sizes in most American school districts including Harlan County.

Under the National School Lunch Program, participating schools must provide lunches — including free or reduced price lunches — with minimum amounts of fresh fruits, fresh vegetables and whole grains. Also, in what presumably falls outside the hunger-free aspect of the act, there’s a calorie cap: 850 for high school lunches, 700 for middle schools and a mere 650 calories for kids in elementary school.

Students can only have one serving of meat or other protein. However, rich kids can buy a second portion each day on their own dime.

Servings of carbohydrates such as potatoes are limited to just a single serving of three-fourths of a cup per student.

On the plus side, students can eat as many fruits and vegetables as they want.

Across the country, students and parents have expressed dissatisfaction with the federal government’s new food regime. Some wealthier suburban school districts are simply backing out of the National School Lunch Program, though doing so can mean giving up a six-figure annual subsidy for the district.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Black tea 'combats bacteria linked with tooth decay and gum disease'

As you will see from the abstract below, this is a very shaky finding.  I quote:  "Epidemiological studies indicate that tea drinking in general may protect against tooth loss, certain oral/digestive cancers and Helicobacter pylori infection, although the studies were few in number with differing methodologies."

A comforting cup of tea brings a smile to most people’s faces.  And now, according to scientists, it might make that smile just a little bit brighter.  Researchers have claimed that drinking at least three cups of tea a day can help keep your teeth in good condition, reducing the risk of decay.

A review of existing studies found that black tea helped combat two types of bacteria – Streptococcus mutans and Lactobacillus – that are both associated with tooth decay and gum disease.

The most effective ‘dose’ of tea was three to four cups a day, according to study leader Dr Carrie Ruxton.

And scientists found that black tea continued to fight decay, even if it had some sugar added to it.

Green tea appeared to have a similar effect – and also helped prevent bad breath by neutralising sulphur compounds that contribute to the condition.

Dr Ruxton, whose review is published in the British Nutrition Foundation’s Nutrition Bulletin, said there was good evidence that tea drinking protects against tooth loss.

‘Evidence specific to black tea suggests that three to four cups a day could help to reduce levels of bacteria in the mouth,’ she said.

‘I’m sure this news is set to be welcomed by dentists and hygienists alike as they continue to educate the nation on the need for greater oral care.’

She said when bacteria in the mouth reacts to carbohydrates, it produces acid that dissolves tooth enamel, resulting in damage that leads to fillings or tooth loss.

Black and green teas appear to reduce inflammation and prevent the adhesion and growth of bacteria that start the chain reaction, she said.

Tea contains antioxidant ingredients known as flavonoids and catechins, tannin-type substances, that have an anti-microbial effect.

The review also shows green tea could aid weight loss, by boosting energy expenditure and burning up more fat.

Regular consumption increases energy expenditure by four to five per cent, while fat oxidation - the elimination of fat that would otherwise be stored - goes up by 10 to 16 per cent.

Dr Tim Bond, spokesman for the industry-backed Tea Advisory Panel, said ‘A relatively little known benefit of tea until recently has been its potential for reducing the risk of dental caries.

'This benefit is thought to be due to a reduction in inflammation in the oral cavity and prevention of the adhesion and growth of bacteria linked to periodontal disease.

‘In terms of weight management, Dr Ruxton’s published review found further supporting effects for green tea when consumed by overweight and obese adults.

‘How green tea might contribute to weight management needs further research, but this latest research review suggests that the catechin ingredients could impact on satiety and thermogenesis and may counter the reductions in metabolism seen when body weight falls.

‘This latest research review already adds to the many health benefits associated with the humble cup of tea including heart health benefits and links with reduced risk of cancers.

'As a result, British people should continue to enjoy their traditional life long habit of drinking tea to help enjoy the many proven and emerging health benefits’ he added.

Emerging evidence for tea benefits

By C. Ruxton


Tea is the most commonly consumed beverage in the world, after water. Associations between regular tea drinking and a reduced risk of coronary heart disease are well established. The mechanism may relate to bioactive compounds found in tea, which exert anti-arteriosclerotic, anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory effects. However, evidence for other diverse health benefits is emerging. The aim of this review was to evaluate research on three new areas of interest in relation to tea drinking: (1) weight management (and glycaemic control); (2) oral health; and (3) gut health. Databases were searched for meta-analytical, human intervention and epidemiological studies published between 1990 and 2013. For weight management, modest, positive effects were found for green tea when ingested by overweight/obese adults, possibly related to thermogenic effects. Epidemiological studies indicate that tea drinking in general may protect against tooth loss, certain oral/digestive cancers and Helicobacter pylori infection, although the studies were few in number with differing methodologies. A growing body of mechanistic studies suggests that tea has anti-cariogenic, anti-adhesive, anti-bacterial and possible pre-biotic effects – all with the potential to impact positively on the pathogenesis of chronic diseases. Clearly, larger trials are needed to confirm these effects in humans and establish optimal intakes. In the meantime, tea drinking appears to be a simple and beneficial way to support health.


Don't quit sugar: nutritionist hits out at top-selling book

A Sydney nutritionist has hit out at top-selling food author Sarah Wilson, claiming her sugar-free diet is dangerous and can damage the body.

"Three years ago I quit sugar, watched my body slowly deteriorate, and then had to claw my way back to health," Cassie Platt said before the release of her own book, Don't Quit Sugar, which she wrote to debunk myths about eating sugar.

"Sugar is our cells' preferred source of energy and is absolutely critical to proper metabolic function. Eliminating it from the diet will do you harm."

Wilson's I Quit Sugar has been on best-seller lists since it was released in January. Random House and Penguin have engaged in a bidding war for the US rights to the book.

Platt, whose philosophy is grounded in clinical research and human physiology, said she wrote her book in direct response to Wilson's, to warn of the dangers of quitting sugar and the long-term effects of doing so.

The nutritionist said eating habits should never be about what you can't have and that approach could lead to trouble.

"Your food choices should be based on biological and metabolic needs. What we eat should fuel our cells, facilitate growth, repair and reproduction and, most importantly, enable your body to function at its very best."

A spokeswoman for publisher Hachette Australia said Don't Quit Sugar showed "exactly how you can use sugar to keep [your] body performing at its peak".

"Through her own experience Cassie leapt aboard the 'quitting sugar' train with horrible results," the spokeswoman said. "Her hair fell out and she had bizarre [menstrual] cycles."

She removed sugar from her diet and "found the results... horrible."

The sweet stuff Platt advocates is natural sugars, the spokeswoman said. The book introduction specifies: "This doesn't green-light soft-drink consumption or a daily candy fix. It simply means that natural sources of sugar - fruit, honey, sweet root vegetables - need to be incorporated into the diet.''

For nutritionist Rosemary Stanton there are grey areas when it comes to the white stuff.  While the body has ''no need for sugar'' there is ''a social need for sweet food'', she said.

''For 45 years I've been telling people to eat less sugar,'' Dr Stanton told Fairfax Media. ''In my experience, going to no [sugar] doesn't work for very long.

"I definitely support eating less sugar - our dietary guidelines since 1979 in Australia have always told us that. But when people go to an extreme and have none - my experience is, they will often break out and blow it.

"If they had allowed themselves a small portion in the first place, that wouldn't happen. You can't go through life happily without having a slice of birthday cake.''

Dr Stanton says there is no harm in stopping eating biscuits, dessert, cake and soft drinks and emphasises that ''36 per cent of adults' calories are from junk foods and soft drinks.

"They are the foods I want to attack - especially when kids' diets are filled with junk with no nutritional value."

Dr Stanton does warn against the danger of stopping eating fruit, though: ''I think that's ridiculous - there's plenty of evidence fruit actually reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and other things. I worry if anyone takes the 'no sugar' message to that extreme.''

For the record, Wilson, who Fairfax Media has attempted to contact, eats fruit. Earlier this year she posted on her blog in response to a report on Channel Nine's A Current Affair story: ''I eat fruit. One of the ACA grabs sees me listing the high-fructose fruits, as requested by the journalist at the time (during an interview a while back).

"I recommend eating the low-fructose fruits where possible: kiwi, berries, grapefruit and so on. If you're doing my eight-week program, I advise cutting out fruit for six weeks. This is to break the sugar addiction and to recalibrate our bodies, just for that short period. I then, at the week-seven mark, invite everyone to reintroduce fruit and read how their bodies take to it.''

Don't Quit Sugar; Why Sugars Are Important For Your Health will be released on November 26.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

How eating raspberries could increase your chances of becoming a father (?)

This is mostly just theory.  The findings probably reflect social class, with middle class men (who are healthier anyway) being more dutiful about their fruit & veg. intake and more likely to take up food fads  -- such as berry eating

Eating raspberries could help increase the chances of becoming a father, it has been claimed.  They contain high levels of Vitamin C, a key nutrient in male fertility, and magnesium, which is involved in the production of testosterone.  They are also thought to protect sperm from ‘oxidative stress’.

A study by the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that men over 44 with the highest intake of Vitamin C had 20 per cent less damage to their sperm DNA than men who did not eat those foods.

It is also thought that after conception antioxidants may decrease the risk of miscarriage.

Juliet Wilson, a fertility nutritionist, said: ‘Raspberries provide essential nutrients that are known to enhance fertility in men and women.’

A recent study in the USA found that men over 44 with the highest intake of Vitamin C - found in foods such as raspberries, broccoli and potatoes - had 20 per cent less damage to their sperm DNA than men who did not eat those foods.

Juliet Wilson, a leading fertility nutritionist said that one portion of raspberries provided the same amount of Vitamin C as eating 173 grapes.

She said: 'Raspberries have not yet been given the 'super-food' recognition of other berries, but they have a comparable bounty of nutrients which shouldn't be ignored.

'Alongside their many health benefits, raspberries are a perfect snack for couples trying to conceive.  'Together with their high vitamin C content - one portion of raspberries provides the same amount as 173 grapes - they are also a good source of folate, which is known to be essential in key stages of female fertility and early embryo development.

With sperm counts in the average British male falling by almost half in the past 60 years, experts have claimed raspberries maybe the saviour to help fathers-to-be.

The popular fruit contain folate, a key nutrient during conception and throughout pregnancy.

Juliet added that it is not just the vitamins and minerals in raspberries which are beneficial in the bedroom.  The berries also help to maintain a healthy body weight, which is the key to balancing sex hormones and increasing the likelihood of conceiving.

They have the lowest GI of any fruit, meaning their sugar is absorbed into the body slowly.  This, combined with their high fibre content means raspberries are an effective way to control hunger and cravings at only a few calories.

Nick Marston of British Summer Fruits, the body that represents 85 per cent of British berry growers, said: 'Raspberries are often overlooked, but their numerous fertility-boosting properties and antioxidants make them the perfect bedtime snack.

'This year we've had faultless growing conditions with the cool spring and recent warm weather, which have resulted in exceptionally tasty and juicy raspberries - so there's no excuse not to take advantage of this superfood.'


The Correlation Between Intellect and Pulchritude

David Friedman has discovered general biological fitness  -- though he doesn't know it

I have spent much of my life teaching at reasonably good schools. The students who succeed in getting admitted to such schools tend to be well above average, intellectually speaking (in “intellect” I include not only intelligence but also characteristics such as organization and willingness to work that affect academic success).

In my possibly biased observation, the female students at such schools are not only smarter than average, they are better looking as well. That raises an interesting question. Assuming my observation is correct, why would there be a positive correlation between intellect and pulchritude?

One possible answer is that intellect is an input to pulchritude. The abilities that make a woman academically successful might also make her successful in improving her appearance, whether by diet and exercise, choice of clothing, or in a variety of other ways.

Another possibility is that intellect and looks are both affected by some common cause. Poor nutrition, for instance, might affect both. So might genetic factors or environmental ones, pre or post-natal. Something goes right or wrong with the process that builds a human being, and it goes right or wrong with both intellect and whatever determines physical appearance.

Another and perhaps more intriguing possibility is that the correlation is due to selective pressure in past societies. Consider a society where male status is in part dependent on intellectual ability; Imperial China would be one example, since positions in the Imperial civil service were high status and were obtained by success in competitive exams. But the same pattern could be expected in any context where individuals compete for status and success depends in part in intellect.

Further, assume that the society is polygenous—high status males are able to mate with multiple females, whether as wives, concubines, or mistresses. Men prefer attractive women, so men with unusually high intellect will be mating with women with unusually good looks, producing children with both.


Monday, August 26, 2013

British food police lose fight to outlaw rare beefburgers after judge rejects claim they are a health risk

Beefburgers cooked rare can remain on restaurant menus after a judge rejected claims by food watchdogs that they are a health risk.

A wine bar and restaurant chain had been told to stop serving the burgers unless they took certain safety precautions.

The ruling by Westminster City Council, backed by the Food Standards Agency, would have set a precedent across the country.

But the company – London-based Davy’s – appealed against the decision and district judge Elizabeth Roscoe backed its policy.

She said: ‘There is a balance to be struck between ensuring the safety of the public and allowing them the freedom of choice that they would wish and have a right to expect.’

The decision will be welcomed by food critics, such as Charles Campion and Prue Leith, who have lambasted efforts by Britain’s food police to ensure meat is cooked through.

The council wanted Davy’s beef supplier to sear and shave the outside of whole cuts of meat to remove any harmful bugs.

Davy’s argued that its suppliers could be trusted to supply beef that could be safely eaten.

But Westminster council’s food safety chief James Armitage warned of a health risk.

He said: ‘There is an emerging trend of eating beef mince raw or rare in all sorts of premises. Most of them don’t have the appropriate controls in place.

‘This is a ticking timebomb. Somewhere, someone is going to go down with E.coli O157 and there could be a very nasty  outbreak. We are not saying burgers should not be eaten rare  or medium – merely that they should be prepared in a way that makes them as safe as practicably possible.’


Let's stop swallowing this barmy health pill hype

There it sits, glistening like a jewel inside a glass bottle. The miracle supplement. The dietary aid that will change your life. The health boost, the wonder pill, elixir of youth, hope in a jar.

All available now at a shop or chemist near you, part of a rapidly growing health supplements industry which makes around £385 million a year in the UK.

All of it aimed at making pampered people in the First World look and feel better about themselves — but does any of it work?

Take a moment to peruse the gilded shelves of gobbledygook and bluster in a health store. Absorb the quasi-medical hocus-pocus that has somehow become an acceptable, High Street standard.

All those pills, balms and tinctures of dubious provenance, sold with the promise of making you sleep, breathe, move, digest, expel, dispel, pee, see or just be a little bit better. All now as mainstream as the syrup of figs and calamine lotion that were the cure-alls of my youth.

How did this happen?

There are infusions to help you lose weight. Pills to safeguard something called ‘your nutritional intake’. Detox kits. Stuff that promises to ‘maintain the normal function of joints and cartilage’. Synthetic multivitamins. And a product in Holland & Barrett that purports to ‘protect your cells from oxidative stress’.

Excuse me but isn’t that .... rust?

Anyway, all of it is part of the merry-go-round of dietary supplements, beloved by many, worshipped by those who rattle with pills from dawn to dusk.

Yet a report from the highly-respected consumer group Which? has accused some big brand health supplement companies of making exaggerated and misleading claims for their products.

Oof, hardly a shock there. Who doesn’t big up their merchandise in one way or another?

Yet manufacturers who make claims about products which do less than they say they do to improve consumers’ health are, I believe, the lowest of the low. They gull people into imagining they are doing something positive for their health, when nothing of the sort is taking place.

Brands such as Seven Seas, Bioglan, Optima, some Boots own brand products, Vitabiotics and Bimuno were all censured. Their products are supposed to give benefits to heart, joints and digestion — and they know exactly how to tap into families’ health concerns about these issues.

According to the Which? study, many of their products fail to deliver the promises splashed across the packaging. Some of the health claims are described as ‘unauthorised’ — but  who would authorise  them? God?

A tragic number of consumers seem to think that a celebrity endorsement by Carol Vorderman (Bioglan Red Krill Oil and Probiotics; Sambucol Immuno Forte supplements), Jennifer Aniston (Smartwater ‘health’ drink), or Lulu (low cholesterol spreads) is all that they need.

When it comes to dietary supplements, consumers become like Alice in Wonderland faced with the Eat Me and Drink Me labels. They want to do what they are told. They want to believe, they really do.
The childlike tendency to have faith in the mumbo-jumbo on the back of bottles and packets of pills can be a powerful one, especially where matters of health and beauty are concerned.

We are all vulnerable, in need of comfort and encouragement. And even in the face of scepticism, many still want to believe. The Which? report may debunk many health manufacturers’ claims, but will it make any difference?

Probably not. Take the case of glucosamine, the most common, most popular non-vitamin, non-mineral supplement taken to boost joint health. Repeat clinical trials prove that there is no advantage to using it — yet millions still do.

They might say, why not? It is not doing me any harm and a great number of doctor-prescribed medicines can be toxic, with terrible side-effects.

There are just too many opportunities for exploitation. In a world where food fraud is a weekly occurrence — English strawberries that are actually from Poland, chickens that aren’t really organic, mozzarella cheese that’s never seen buffalo milk — don’t you think the same thing will happen in the murkier world of health shops?

Pills and potions are impossible for the layman to assess properly.

RATHER than doping up on synthetic vitamins or fish oil capsules harvested from fish reared on farms and fed only chemicals, why not have the real thing instead?

A couple of oranges instead of a vitamin C tablet, effervescent or not. Lots of fresh spinach, ginger, turmeric and garlic instead of vague substitutes offering no proper solutions to health problems or wellbeing.

I can’t help but think that an old-fashioned approach — natural foods and a healthy lifestyle — is probably a far better medicine that all this modish, pseudo-scientific health store rubbish. An apple a day keeps the doctor away? Truer now than it ever was.


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Eating too much red meat could increase the risk of Alzheimer's: Scientists warn build-up of iron may damage the brain (?)

All that has been shown so far is higher levels of iron in one brain region of Alzheimer's sufferers.  All the rest is theory.  No causal inferences can be drawn from the evidence so far

Eating too much red meat could trigger Alzheimer's, suggests new research.  Scientists found that a build-up of iron - abundant in red meat - could cause oxidant damage, to which the brain is particularly vulnerable.  Researchers say this could in turn increase the risk of Alzheimer's.

Professor George Bartzokis, of UCLA in the United States, said that more studies have suggested the disease is caused by one of two proteins, one called tau, the other beta-amyloid.

As we age, most scientists say, these proteins either disrupt signaling between neurons or simply kill them.

He and colleagues looked at two areas of the brain in patients with Alzheimer's and they compared the hippocampus, which is known to be damaged early in the disease, and the thalamus, an area that is generally not affected until the late stages.

Using brain-imaging techniques, they found that iron is increased in the hippocampus and is associated with tissue damage in that area. But increased iron was not found in the thalamus.

Professor Bartzokis said that most research had focused on the build up of the proteins tau or beta-amyloid that cause the plaques associated with the disease.

But he believes the breakdown occurs further 'upstream', and it is the protein's destruction of myelin, the fatty tissue which enables nerve signals to be sent along fibres, which disrupts communication and promotes the build-up of the plaques.

These amyloid plaques in turn destroy more and more myelin, disrupting brain signaling and leading to cell death and the classic clinical signs of Alzheimer's.

He points out that myelin is produced by cells called oligodendrocytes. These cells, along with myelin itself, have the highest levels of iron of any cells in the brain, Bartzokis says.

He adds that although iron is essential for cell function, too much of it can promote oxidative damage, to which the brain is especially vulnerable.

Hypothesising that elevated iron in the tissues could cause tissue breakdown, he targeted the vulnerable hippocampus, a key area of the brain involved in the formation of memories, and compared it to the thalamus, which is relatively spared by Alzheimer's until the very late stages of disease.

They found increased iron levels in patients with Alzheimer's.

Prof Bartzokis said: 'It is difficult to measure iron in tissue when the tissue is already damaged.'

But the MRI technology we used in this study allowed us to determine that the increase in iron is occurring together with the tissue damage.

'We found that the amount of iron is increased in the hippocampus and is associated with tissue damage in patients with Alzheimer's but not in the healthy older individuals - or in the thalamus.

'So the results suggest that iron accumulation may indeed contribute to the cause of Alzheimer's disease.'

The link to iron could mean that dietary changes and surgical interventions could lower the chances of the developing the disease, he said.

He explained: 'The accumulation of iron in the brain may be influenced by modifying environmental factors, such as how much red meat and iron dietary supplements we consume and, in women, having hysterectomies before menopause.'

He said drugs are already being developed to remove iron from tissue and the new study may allow doctors to determine who is most in need of such treatments.


Does working long hours make you a bad father? Men who do overtime are more likely to have 'delinquent and aggressive' sons

It seems highly likely that the overtime workers were mostly working class -- and they have more pathologies anyway

Boys whose fathers work very long hours are more likely to become tearaways, according to new research.

A study of more than 1,400 children found those whose fathers worked more than 55 hours a week were more delinquent and aggressive than their peers, yet the same phenomenon was not identified in daughters.

Further research now needs to be carried out to discover why this happens in males, and to look for ways to tackle it.

The study was run by the Social Science Research Centre in Berlin, but was based in Western Australia where one in five fathers work at least 55 hours week when their children were between five and eight.

Mothers' working hours did not seem to matter, although few Australian mothers worked long hours, according to the study, and no firm conclusions could be drawn from this comparison.

The culture of working long hours, which has crept into many jobs should be the next policy frontier, said the researchers.

In Germany, 15 per cent of fathers of children aged three and four worked 55 or more hours a week in 2011.

Dr Jianghong Li, of The Social Science Research Centre, Berlin, said: 'It is possible when fathers work very long hours, children are less well monitored after school, especially if mothers also work full time hours.

'There is some evidence pre-adolescent boys are less well monitored than girls when fathers have high work related demands, including long hours, and as a consequence have more conduct problems.'

The children's behaviour was monitored by the researchers when they were five, eight and ten using a recognised checklist.
The researchers claim that the findings may be due to the fact when fathers work long hours, children are less well monitored after school, especially if mothers also work full time hours.

The researchers claim the behaviours may be due to the fact when fathers work long hours, children are monitored less after school, especially if mothers also work full-time. However, they add that more research needs to be carried out into why it doesn't happen with daughters

Dr Li said: 'Although the average amount of time parents spend with their children has increased in recent years, the quantity and quality of parent-child time is still raised as a concern.

'Studies in the U.S and Australia point to a desire among parents to work fewer hours and spend more time with their children and a wish among children parents would come home from work less tired and stressed.

'The findings on fathers' long work hours are associated with higher levels of child behavioural problems is important, given the limited prior research specifically examining fathers' work hours.'

Policy has traditionally focused on enabling flexibility for mothers in balancing their work and family responsibilities.

Added Dr Li: 'The results of this study challenge public and policy concern that mothers' absence due to paid work may have a negative impact on children's development.

'This study provides evidence to support equal opportunities for mothers and fathers to share parenting and work responsibilities.

'Instead of focusing on negative effects of mothers' work hours, policy attention should be given to negative consequences of fathers' long work hours for children's emotional well being.

'Fathers should be given incentives not to work long hours but to have a greater share of parenting responsibilities.'

The findings were reported in the Journal of Marriage and Family.


Friday, August 23, 2013

Use of psychedelic drugs like LSD and magic mushrooms 'does NOT increase risk of mental health problems' - and may even help (?)

I wonder how well these researchers know the people they describe.  I am surprised that they seem unaware of defensiveness among drug users.  In my observations, users of hallucinogens can be quite defensive about what they do.  And a major aspect of that defensiveness is to deny any adverse health effects on themselves of what they do.  Since the data below is self-report, it is my view that the researchers have simply discovered evidence in support of my observations.  They have discovered defensiveness, nothing else

Psychedelic drugs such as LSD and magic mushrooms do not cause mental health problems in users, a new study has claimed.   Researchers in Norway have said they in fact found 'significant associations' between the drugs and fewer psychological problems.

The team, from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology's (NTNU) Department of Neuroscience, studied more than 130,000 random people, including 22,000 who had used the drugs at least once, included in a health survey in the US.

Clinical psychologist Pål-Ørjan Johansen, who carried out the study with researcher Teri Krebs, said: 'After adjusting for other risk factors, lifetime use of LSD, psilocybin, mescaline or peyote, or past year use of LSD was not associated with a higher rate of mental health problems or receiving mental health treatment.'

The team studied the 2001-2004 National Survey on Drug Use and Health which asked people about mental health conditions including general psychological distress, anxiety disorders, mood disorders, and psychosis.

Krebs and Johansen used the data to investigate connections between the use of psychedelic drugs and the mental health issues.

The researchers said rather than finding a connection between their use and an increase in problems, they discovered long-term use of drugs such as psilocybin or mescaline was linked to 'lower rates of serious psychological distress'.

Meanwhile, people who had used LSD in the last 12 months were also associated with lower rates of distress, while those who had used the drug long-term had a lower rate of treatment for mental health issues.

The researchers have said it is not possible to determine the reason behind their discoveries, because of the nature of the study, and warned the drugs could be harmful to some.

They wrote: 'We cannot exclude the possibility that use of psychedelics might have a negative effect on mental health for some individuals or groups, perhaps counterbalanced at a population level by a positive effect on mental health in others.'

The researchers pointed out that recent trials 'have also failed to find any evidence of any lasting harmful effects of psychedelics'.

Krebs said: 'Everything has some potential for negative effects, but psychedelic use is overall considered to pose a very low risk to the individual and to society.'

The results are published in the journal PLOS One.


Mums-to-be with unhealthy diets are 'more likely to have badly behaved children'

What utter rubbish!  They have simply discovered that poor people have worse health and behaviour while  poor people are also likely to eat what they like, not what is "approved".  No relationship between diet and health is shown.

Pregnant mums with unhealthy diets are more likely to have children with behavioural problems, a new study has revealed.

Children with a high intake of junk food also have increased symptoms of depression and anxiety and are more susceptible to aggressive outbursts and tantrums.

The study is the first to tackle the impact of early life nutrition as an individual’s diet is already related to common mental disorders in adults and adolescents.

The study involved more than 23,000 mothers and children participating in the ongoing Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study.

Researchers from Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia, worked with Norwegian collaborators on the project. Associate Professor Felice Jacka, researcher with Deakin University’s IMPACT Strategic Research Centre, was the lead author of the study.

She said: 'Early life nutrition, including the nutrition received while the child is in utero, is related to physical health outcomes in children - their risk for later heart disease or diabetes for example.  'It is now more clear than ever that diet matters to mental health right across the age spectrum.

Details of a mother’s diet during pregnancy and their children’s diets at 18 months and three years were recorded using questionnaires.

Their children’s symptoms of depression, anxiety, conduct disorder and ADHD were also measured at 18 months, three years and five years of age.

Socioeconomic factors and the mental health of parents were not included in the research to help determine a clearer relationship between diet and mental health.

Now Professor Jacka believes governments must act to tackle the mental and physical issues caused by eating junk food.

She said: 'There is an urgent need for governments everywhere to take note of the evidence and amend food policy.

'The shift to more high-energy, low nutrition foods developed and marketed by the processed food industry, have led to a massive increase in obesity-related illnesses everywhere.

'They must restrict the marketing and availability of unhealthy food products to the community.'


Thursday, August 22, 2013

A bad back is more than a pain in the neck

Theodore Dalrymple

As an occasional sufferer from lower back pain, I sympathise deeply with David Cameron, whose lumbago currently prevents him from pursuing deer on Jura. A bad back is an utter misery: there is no position that one can adopt for long that remains comfortable. It is like a nagging spouse: it demands attention and cannot be ignored.

Let us hope, for Mr Cameron’s sake and that of the country, that his lumbago is intermittent rather than continuous. For chronic pain, or chronic illness of any description, is seldom an aid to rational decision-making.

Apart from anything else, it leads to self-medication that may cloud judgment. Dr Hugh L’Etang’s books contain a menagerie of world leaders who have made stupid mistakes under the influence of the drugs they have taken to overcome discomfort of one kind or another. Thus we wish Mr Cameron a swift recovery, for our own good as well as his.

No one who has suffered from lower back pain will deny the misery that it inflicts upon sufferers. But it is not straightforwardly caused by physical injury or pathology: though of course it can be.

Regarding myself as psychologically robust rather than fragile, I was once rather humiliated to discover that my bouts of back pain had a considerable, not to say overwhelming, psychological component. I was in India, and due to return home in a few days, when I was stricken by severe pain that made it almost impossible to walk. There was concurrently a problem with my ticket, but I did not connect the two. The ticket had disappeared into the maw of the airline office (no internet then).

Then, unexpectedly, the ticket was delivered to me – and my pain disappeared within the hour. My anxiety had translated itself into muscular tension, a phenomenon known as “somatisation”, to which I had never before realised that I was prone.

I am far from alone in this; there is a large psychological element to most backache. In his wonderful book Whiplash and Other Illnesses – which is not nearly as well-known as it ought to be – Dr Andrew Malleson has a startling graph showing the rise of backache in Britain over the past 50 or 60 years. In 1950, there were 1.5 million days of lost work caused by backache. By 1995, this had risen to 115 million.

This astonishing increase is unlikely to have been caused by an equivalent increase in the number of physical injuries suffered by the working population. On the contrary, work became ever less physical as the years went by. Perhaps bad posture during sedentary employment explains it (and certainly, whenever I have a twinge of backache, sitting at my computer makes it 10 times worse, as does driving a car).

This does not entirely carry conviction, however – for the fact is that the self-employed suffer far less from work-preventing backache. Indeed, to the frustration of those of us in the medical profession, the whole experience correlates very poorly with objective diagnostic signs. Those whose MRI scans reveal bad backs may suffer no symptoms, while those who suffer may have a spine that shows no abnormality (though all spines degenerate with age). For the majority, no objective cause is found – but you cannot say that the pain is exaggerated or unreal, just because you find nothing on the X-rays.

This, of course, makes backache the more or less perfect condition for malingerers, or those who would defraud insurance companies. This has long been recognised. When railways were still comparatively new, passengers involved in accidents or abrupt halts claimed to suffer from “railway spine”. In his book Injuries of the Spine and Spinal Cord Without Apparent Mechanical Lesion, and Nervous Shock, in Their Surgical and Medico-legal Aspects, the surgeon Walter Page wrote in 1883: “Is the condition before us real or feigned? A right answer is obviously fraught with moment to both doctor and patient, and yet the difficulty of giving a right answer may be very great.”

In a giant textbook from 1917 entitled Malingering, dedicated (ironically?) to the author of the National Insurance Act, Lloyd George, we read: “Our views as to the nature of [backache] sadly lack precision, and up to now the condition has not been correlated with any anatomical lesion… It is easy to complain of 'pain in the back’, difficult to establish the truth of the assertion – a fact of which the fraudulent-minded are well aware.” To this day private detectives are probably better at discerning the truth than radiographers.

Between anatomical lesion and fraud, however, there is a large no-man’s land, probably inhabited by Mr Cameron – and by me. Perhaps also he suffers from that well-known phenomenon, illness that comes on when busy people relax. They have had no time to be ill before.


Toxins warning over chinese medicines

Health regulators have issued a warning over some Chinese medicines, saying they contain "dangerously high" levels of lead, mercury and arsenic.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said the unlicensed traditional Chinese medicines included some meant for children.

None have been authorised for use in the UK but investigators have found them readily available on the internet.

One product, which goes by a variety of names, was found to have "extremely high" levels of arsenic by the Swedish National Food Agency (SFNA), the MHRA said.

The product is called Niu-Huang Chieh-tu-pein, Divya Kaishore Guggul or Chandraprabha Vatiand and is used for treating mumps, sore throat, tonsillitis, toothache, skin infections, anorexia and fever in young children.

Another product, Bak Foong Pills, is used to relieve period pain but has been recalled in Hong Kong after it was found to contain up to twice the level of lead permitted by the Hong Kong government.

One product called Hairegenerator, used for hair loss, has also been recalled in Hong Kong after a sample was found to contain 11 times the permitted level of mercury.

The MHRA's head of herbal policy, Richard Woodfield, said people should exercise extreme caution when buying unlicensed medicines.

"The adulteration of traditional Chinese medicines with heavy metals is a significant international problem and can pose a serious risk to public health," he said.

"Natural does not mean safe. To help you choose a herbal medicine that is suitable for you, look for a product that has a Traditional Herbal Registration (THR) or product licence number on the packaging. These products have met the acceptable quality and safety standards.

"If you think you have taken any of these products, please speak to your doctor for advice. If you think you have suffered a side-effect from these, or any medicines, please tell us about it through our yellow card scheme."


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

New study  links Alzheimer's to copper

Study in laboratory glassware only.  Problems as described below

The scientific community is divided on the question of whether copper - found in red meat, vegetables, dairy products as well as pipes that carry drinking water in much of the developed world - causes or prevents Alzheimer's disease.

For the latest study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers looked at how copper in the capillaries may cause a breakdown in the blood-brain barrier, leading to a buildup of the protein amyloid beta, or plaques that are a hallmark of Alzheimer's.

According to lead author Rashid Deane, a research professor at the University of Rochester Medical Center, experiments using mice and human cells showed that low levels of copper delivered via drinking water accumulated in the capillary walls that feed blood to the brain.

"These are very low levels of copper, equivalent to what people would consume in a normal diet," said Prof Deane.

The copper caused oxidation which interfered with another protein, called lipoprotein receptor-related protein 1 (LRP1), that would normally clear amyloid beta from the brain, his study said.

Not only did copper appear to prevent the clearance of plaque that is believed to be a prime culprit in Alzheimer's, it also stimulated neurons to produce more amyloid beta.

Researchers described their findings in a press release as a "one-two punch" that "provides strong evidence that copper is a key player in Alzheimer's disease."

"Copper is an essential metal and it is clear that these effects are due to exposure over a long period of time," said Prof Deane in a statement.

"The key will be striking the right balance between too little and too much copper consumption. Right now we cannot say what the right level will be, but diet may ultimately play an important role in regulating this process."

However, other experts who have studied copper and Alzheimer's questioned the paper's findings.

"Research including our own shows the opposite, that copper prevents amyloid from forming the type of structures seen in the plaques," said Christopher Exley, professor in Bioinorganic Chemistry at Keele University in Staffordshire.

Prof Exley and colleagues recently published their latest paper on the topic in the British journal Nature in February.

"As a group we would be thinking, based on everything that we know - and our research has been done with human brains and brain tissues - that if anything, copper would be protective against Alzheimer's."

Prof Exley said a "number of things" in the PNAS paper raised red flags, such as the way they measured the copper amounts and the fact that they used animal models which do not always translate directly to humans.

"You do need a significant amount of tissue to produce results that you have a high level of confidence in. A mouse capillary - these are very, very, very small things," Prof Exley said.

"The amount of copper which they are talking about as being possibly proactive is normal," he added.

"If you took this paper at absolute face value, it is telling everybody that we are all suffering from the effects that this paper is documenting right now because we are all exposed to this amount of copper."

Another outside researcher, George Brewer, emeritus professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan medical school, said the "authors miss an important point about copper toxicity to the brain."

"They don't differentiate copper delivered in drinking water, as they delivered it in their study, from copper in food," Prof Brewer said.

"We have always had copper in food, so it couldn't possibly be the cause of this new AD epidemic," he said.

"If they had added this trace amount of copper to food, rather than putting it in drinking water, it would have had no effect."


Four million patients on statins don't need them: Half of those on cholesterol-reduction pills risk side effects with little chance of benefit, doctors warn

A foolish fad finally fading  -- JR

Up to four million people have been wrongly placed on statins, putting them at risk of side effects with little chance they will benefit from the drugs, doctors warned last night.

More than half of patients put on the cholesterol-lowering pills to prevent  a first heart attack or stroke are in fact ‘ineligible’ for the treatment, a  Birmingham University study found.

It suggests that more than £100 million a year is being wasted because GPs have a scatter-gun approach to prescribing the drugs.

Over the past decade the number of people in Britain on statins has risen from five to eight million. The drugs lower the risk of heart attack and stroke in those at medium and high risk, but they can also produce side effects in up to a fifth of takers.

These can include muscle pain, fatigue, stomach upsets, sleep disturbance and erectile dysfunction.

The study, based on data from 365,000 patients at 421 GP practices and published in the journal PloS ONE, found six in ten statin prescriptions to prevent first heart attack or stroke go to ‘ineligible patients’, such as  middle-aged people with raised cholesterol but no other risk factors.

And among those who are meant to get the pills, such as the elderly, only one in four does so.

Dr Tom Marshall, from the Birmingham School of Public Health and Population Science, said: ‘These are useful drugs but they are not getting to the right people.  'There are lots of people who could benefit who are not on them, and there are lots of people who are on them who will not benefit.’

About a quarter of the population over 40 are on statins. They are the most widely prescribed type of drug in the country by a large margin.  In England alone, statins cost the NHS almost £300 million in 2012.

Dr Marshall said too many GPs were putting patients on statins merely because they had a high total cholesterol reading. This was particularly the case among 55 to 70-year-olds.

Dr Aseem Malhotra, a cardiologist at the Royal Free Hospital in London, said part of the problem was that GPs were given cash incentives to check people’s cholesterol level, meaning they focused on that and failed to make a broader assessment of risk.

‘Financial incentives are distorting clinical medicine,’ he warned.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Pregnant women CAN drink alcohol and coffee, claims controversial new book that aims to dispel 'motherhood myths'

Pregnant women can drink alcohol and coffee and dye their hair – but should avoid gardening, according to an expert who  aims to dispel ‘motherhood myths’.  Economist and author Emily Oster contradicts conventional wisdom and advocates a much more relaxed approach to pregnancy.

In her book, Expecting Better, she claims a glass of wine a day is fine, plenty of coffee won’t harm the baby and gaining too little weight while pregnant is far more worrying than gaining too much.

The Harvard-educated associate professor of economics at the University of Chicago used her data skills to rewrite the rules of pregnancy.

Last night she told the Daily Mail that food restrictions were ‘overblown’ and that alcohol consumption does not affect the IQ or behaviour of the child.

She said her book – which found the best studies often painted a different picture from official guidelines – was ‘simply to show women the evidence and let them decide for themselves’.

Miss Oster said: ‘Actually getting the numbers led me to a more relaxed place: a glass of wine every now and then, plenty of coffee, exercise when I wanted it.’

Miss Oster’s quest began when she became pregnant three years ago and was advised to give up her four cups of coffee a day.

Unwilling to do so and frustrated by ‘one long list of rules’, she investigated and found that research linking coffee consumption to higher rates of miscarriage was flawed.

She wrote in one article: ‘I ultimately decided that the weight of evidence didn’t support limiting my consumption very much. I decided to continue.’

Her next port of call was alcohol. She looked at a study in the journal Pediatrics, which had concluded that just one drink a day was enough to put unborn children at risk of behavioural problems.

But the research did not reflect that 18 per cent of the women studied didn’t drink at all and 45 per cent of those who enjoyed a daily drink also took cocaine.

She concluded that women should feel comfortable with one or two drinks a week during the first three months and up to one a day after that.

Her research found that dyeing hair was fine and there was little evidence that exercise, while not unsafe, had any benefits. But she found gardening could raise the risks of exposure to a toxoplasmosis parasite living in the soil.  Toxoplasmosis is caused by a parasite and is acquired from contact with cats and their faeces. A woman contracting it just before or while pregnant can transmit it to her baby.

Miss Oster said: ‘There is some risk to increase birth defects if you do a lot of outdoor gardening when you are pregnant. That can increase rates of toxoplasmosis.’

She discovered sushi was fine and sardines and herring were good for a child’s IQ, but advised against raw milk cheese.

Sceptics were less convinced. A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘Drinking during pregnancy can be associated with miscarriage, foetal alcohol syndrome and low birth weight.’  ‘Our advice remains that women who are trying to conceive or who are pregnant should avoid alcohol.’

Netmums website founder, Siobhan Freegard, said: ‘Official guidelines may seem stringent but they are there to err on the side of absolute safety.’


British health police trying to ban rare steaks

The prospect of a rare steak could become even rarer in British restaurants, an influential British chef has warned.  Food guru and critic Prue Leith blames local council officials for trying to enforce rules designed for factories and fast-food chains, which demand meat is cooked through, on small restaurants.

She said: ‘I can see a day when you have to go to France to get a rare steak.  'The same for pink duck breasts, liver or kidneys.’

Miss Leith, a judge on the BBC’s hit cooking series ‘Great British Menu’, added: ‘If you have a really good chef, or course he is going to be good about making sure he is not poisoning anybody.  'Of course, he will be highly aware of hygiene and how bugs grow.

'Almost always when there is a food poisoning scandal, the reason is simple hygiene rules.  'People have left food sitting in a warm kitchen for four hours or have used the same knife - simple stuff.’

Her comments come as top chefs admit they are defying pressures from health inspectors to prevent them from serving rare meat to customers.

Officials are instructing restaurants they should no longer serve duck breast or liver pink and that beef burgers and kidneys must not be bloody, to prevent food poisoning.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) states that poultry, as well as liver and other offal, should not be served pink or rare but be cooked thoroughly, and served steaming hot all the way through to kill off any bacteria.

This advice is only guidance, as restaurateurs are required only to ensure their food is safe by law.  But the guidelines are increasingly being raised by environmental health officers during restaurant inspections, putting pressure on chefs to comply.

But chefs argue they are better qualified to judge when meat is safe and are continuing to serve the dishes to their diners’ request, despite the risk of prosecution.

Alex Jackson, head chef at the Dock Kitchen, in Ladbroke Grove, west London, said he had ignored advice from council officers to stop serving chicken livers pink.

He said: ‘It is a difficult issue. But you would have uproar if people were stopped from eating rare meat for the sake of a few dodgy restaurants.  ‘It is frustrating to be told what you can and can’t cook. We tend to ignore it. You often find that you know more than the people who are telling you not to.’

Chef Michael Caines, of two Michelin star restaurant Gidleigh Park, on Dartmoor, said: ‘It is ridiculous, to be quite frank.  'We are in a Draconian state where we are being told by everybody what to do because people don’t understand what it is we’re doing.

‘If you’ve got a nice piece of fresh liver, it is handled correctly and you are cooking it on the outside, if it is served medium rare I don’t see whey that would be a risk to anyone. Equally the customer has the right to choose.’

Richard Turner, head chef of Hawksmoor, the specialist steak restaurants in central London, said he was prepared to go to court to defend the right to serve steak rare.

He said: ‘Westminster Council has told us we can no longer serve our burgers rare, which is possibly right.  'But for meats that aren’t being played around with, as long as it is from a good source, it is ridiculous to say you cannot eat it rare.  'To say we could not cook duck medium rare would be ridiculous - we have been doing it for 20 years now.

'If they tried to tell us we could not serve steak rare we would probably have to go to court - we would lose our business.’

Last night the FSA defended its guidelines saying it was important to cook poultry, pork and minced meat thoroughly to prevent food poisoning.

An FSA spokesman said: ‘It’s safe to eat rare beef and lamb steak because searing the outside surface of a piece of steak will kill any bugs that might have contaminated the outside.

‘However, the same doesn’t go for minced products like burgers.   'This is because any bugs that may have been on the surface of the raw meat will be spread throughout the burger when the meat is minced, so any pink meat may still contain harmful bacteria, whether raw or in a burger that’s cooked on the outside.’

Andrew Wadge, chief scientist at the FSA, added: ‘While I love eating out and enjoy a rare steak as much as the next person, I also accept that there is a serious risk from eating some undercooked foods.

‘We don’t make up cooking times to frustrate creativity in the kitchen. They’re there for an important reason and are the result of careful consideration.  ‘I think the FSA and local authorities to get the balance right between letting chefs do their jobs and protecting public health.


Monday, August 19, 2013

Is fruit juice bad for your health?

This is just Lustig still pushing his anti-sugar barrow.  He has very little support from other medical researchers.  Note that other fanatics condemn artificial sweetners so it is sweetness that is wrong!

It sounds like a crazy question, but fruit juice could be worse for you than fizzy drinks.

Juice exudes health and vitality. It is officially one of your 'five-a-day'. It's what they sell in juice bars, those yogafied temples of wheatgrass.

But fruit juice is also, according to the American obesity expert Robert Lustig, basically just sugar and is therefore, in his view, a 'poison'. Lustig is the author of Fat Chance: The Bitter Truth about Sugar (4th Estate, £13.99), published earlier this year. He sees sugar as the major culprit in the obesity crisis. Not so surprising, except for his shock revelation that the worst sugars may be those that appear the healthiest. 'Calorie for calorie, 100 per cent orange juice is worse for you' than sugary sodas, Lustig says.

This sounds alarmist, until you read some of the case studies [case studies prove nothing] from Lustig's childhood obesity clinic in San Francisco. One eight-year-old already has high blood pressure, thanks to a three-glasses-a-day juice habit. A six-year-old Latino boy comes to the clinic weighing 100lb, 'wider than he is tall'. His mother, a poor farm worker, has been letting him drink a gallon of juice a day because a government welfare programme gives them the juice for free.

Obviously, most of us drink nothing like a gallon of juice a day. But our juice portions are still out of whack. Over the past 30 years consumption of fructose – the sugar in juice – has more than doubled. Juice didn't used to be seen as something with which you quenched your thirst; it was more like a vitamin shot, a tiny dose of goodness. A book from the 1920s on feeding children by L Emmett Holt says that you should give toddlers just one to four tablespoons (15-60ml) of fresh orange or peach juice. Compare this with today's 200ml children's juice boxes, which contain about 17g sugar, the equivalent of more than four teaspoons.

The biggest problem with juice, as far as Lustig is concerned, is the lack of fibre. When you eat a whole apple, the sugar is 'nicely balanced' by the fibre, giving 'the liver a chance to fully metabolise what's coming in'. When you down half a pint of apple juice it 'brings a huge dose of energy straight to the liver'. Smoothies are not much better, no matter how pretty the packaging, because when fruit is blended the insoluble fibre is 'torn to smithereens'.


Britain's politicians banned from eating scrambled eggs because risk of salmonella is 'too dangerous'... unless they are made from pasteurised liquid from Holland

MPs were at the centre of a new food scare last night after the Commons banned traditional scrambled eggs and omelettes – because they are ‘too dangerous’.

Chefs at the House of Commons are now forbidden to make two of the most popular light meals in Britain with fresh eggs on the grounds that they could be contaminated with salmonella or other bugs.

MPs at Westminster can still order scrambled egg or omelette, but they will be made with liquid pasteurised egg from Holland instead.  One MP said: ‘Whatever they are made with, they taste disgusting.’

And Tory MP Nicholas Soames, grandson of wartime leader Winston Churchill, is understood to have called the decision ‘absurd’.

Politicians with a sweet tooth have also been affected because mousses made from fresh eggs have been removed from the dessert menu.

Some MPs have backed the move, claiming it is a ‘sensible precaution’, but others say the ruling risks a new outbreak of the panic that led to the resignation of Edwina Currie as Conservative Health Minister in 1988.

She was forced to quit after saying: ‘Most of the egg production in this country, sadly, is now affected with salmonella.’

It provoked fury among farmers and egg producers, and led to a slump in sales.

One MP warned: ‘If MPs cannot  or will not eat scrambled eggs or omelette because they are a health risk, members of the public may say, "If it is too dangerous for MPs, it must be too dangerous for us."'

Another of the MPs hoping to enjoy the traditional snack said: ‘It all started in the Tearoom when staff  told us they were now made with powdered egg, not fresh eggs.  ‘They said it was all to do with health and safety. There was a lot  of anger.’

Mr Soames protested at the decision at a meeting of the Commons Administration Committee that is responsible for Commons catering.

An MP who was also at the meeting said: ‘Nick said that in all his years as an MP, this was the most absurd catering decision he had ever heard. He said we were being  treated like children.’

A Commons spokeswoman said: ‘Dishes such as scrambled eggs, mousses or omelettes which do  not reach a core temperature of 75 degrees Celsius are now made using pasteurised liquid egg, rather than fresh eggs. This is in line with Food Standard Agency advice.’

But last night the food watchdog denied it supported a ban on scrambled egg and omelettes made with fresh eggs.  A spokeswoman said: ‘There is no requirement or guidance for caterers to use liquid egg rather than fresh eggs where the egg is to be fully cooked.

‘For vulnerable groups such as  the elderly, infants under five or expectant mums, there is guidance that caterers could use pasteurised egg in any food that will not be cooked or only lightly cooked, such as mayonnaise.’

The traditional way of cooking scrambled eggs is to use a moderate heat. If the temperature is too hot, the eggs can become rubbery.

TV cook Delia Smith says the only rule with scrambled eggs is to use a medium heat. ‘If the heat is too  high, the eggs will become dry and flaky,’ she said.

Labour MP Thomas Docherty, vice-chairman of the Commons Administration Committee, last night demanded an inquiry into the ban. He said: ‘I have asked managers to find out who took this ridiculous decision.’


Sunday, August 18, 2013

More than four cups of coffee a day puts you at risk of early death, claim U.S. researchers

"the results did not demonstrate any association between coffee consumption and all-cause mortality in older men and women."  Not much to worry about, then, is there?   It's junk research generally, with lots of holes, some outlined below

The findings come from a large- scale American lifestyle study of 43,727 individuals aged 20 to 87.

The US researchers suspect excessive coffee consumption may adversely affect the body’s metabolism, outweighing some of the known health benefits.

Individuals with a ‘genetic coffee addiction’ may be prone to these harmful effects, they suggest.

But the latest study conflicts with a number of others, which have linked moderate coffee consumption with longevity.

Around 2,500 deaths were recorded over the course of the 16-year study. Just under a third of these were because of heart and artery disease.

Participants who drank more coffee were also more likely to smoke, and had less healthy hearts and lungs.

The risk of death from all causes rose by 56 per cent for men and women younger than 55 who drank more than 28 cups of coffee a week, said a report in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

Researcher Steven Blair, of the University of South Carolina, said: ‘Significantly the results did not demonstrate any association between coffee consumption and all-cause mortality in older men and women.’

But the researchers did not explain why coffee did not affect older people in the same way. Coffee contains thousands of  different chemicals, which can have both good and bad effects on health.

Recent research has shown that coffee is a major dietary source of antioxidant, and it may reduce inflammation and boost brain function.

At the same time, coffee stimulates the release of adrenaline, inhibits insulin activity, increases blood pressure, and raises levels of homocysteine, a harmful chemical linked to heart disease and dementia.

Co-author Dr Carl Lavie, from Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans, said: ‘There continues to be considerable debate about the health effects of caffeine, and coffee specifically, with some reports suggesting toxicity and some even suggesting beneficial effects.’

Dr Euan Paul, executive director of the British Coffee Association, said the study’s limitations may have skewed the findings.  The use of a questionnaire can result in recall bias, with people struggling to remember how many cups of coffee they have consumed in the past week, he said.

Other factors such as smoking and poor fitness could partly explain the link with premature death.

Previous studies have found either no link between coffee consumption and heart deaths, or a positive effect, he added.

He said: ‘There is a growing body of data which suggests that coffee is perfectly safe when consumed in moderation – four to five cups a day – and as part of a balanced diet.


Could regular sex make you RICH? Study finds employees who have sex four times a week get paid more than those who don't  

Refreshing that this guy is not dogmatic about the direction of the causal arrow.  He allows that it may be higher incomes that get the guy more sex.  And there are plenty of third factors that could be involved  -- such as health and vigor

Researchers found that people who have sex at least four times a week get paid more than people who do not have as much sex – regardless of education or profession.

And a lack of physical intimacy can have a significant impact on a person’s state of mind, the researchers found.  ‘People need to love and be loved (sexually and non-sexually) by others.  'In the absence of these elements, many people become susceptible to loneliness, social anxiety, and depression that could affect their working life,’ study author Dr Nick Drydakis, an economics lecturer at Anglia Ruskin University, told CBSNews.

Dr Drydakis says he decided to study the topic because he believes that people have to meet their basic needs, such as eating, drinking, sleeping and having sex, before they will be able to have successes in other parts of their life.

He studied data from 7,500 people aged between 26 and 50.  The participants, who included both straight and gay couples, were asked about their health, sexual activity, employment status and earnings.

The findings revealed that people who have sex more than four times a week earn five per cent more than those who have sex less than four times a week.

The study also found that people who do not have sex at all earn three per cent less than people who do have sex.

The findings held even when factors such as education and profession were taken into account.

The study revealed that even people who have health problems earn more if they have regular sex.

Dr Drydakis, says that he does not know exactly why sex and earnings are linked but he believes that it could be because people who earn well have the disposable income to go on more dates.

Alternatively, it could be because people who earn well are more attractive to potential partners.

Dr Drydakis’ final theory is that the reason could be that people who have high wages are better able to buy their partner gifts and that they are rewarded with sex.

‘Sexual activity is a key aspect of personal health and social welfare that influences individuals across their life span,’ Dr Drydakis told CBSNews. ‘In terms of policy implications, access to effective, broadly-based sexual health education could be an important contributing factor to the health and well-being of people.’


Friday, August 16, 2013

Eating salmon once a week 'reduces risk of rheumatoid arthritis by half'

The esteemed Karolinska is putting out a lot of rubbish these days.  This was a self-report study, open to social desirability bias.  Middle class people probably said the "right" thing more often and they are healthier anyway

Eating salmon at least once a week could halve the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.  Oily fish such as salmon or mackerel had the most marked effect, reducing the risk by 52 per cent, a study found.  The same benefit comes from eating four portions a week of lean fish such as cod or plaice.

The difference is in the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids, which are present in much higher level in oily fish.

Even eating just one portion of any type of fish each week for 10 years leads to a 29 per cent cut in risk of arthritis, compared with those eating less fish.

Middle-aged and older women are traditionally more at risk of rheumatoid arthritis. The Swedish study, published in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, involved 32,000 women born between 1914 and 1948.

They completed surveys on what they ate, in 1987 and again in 1997. During this period, 205 of the women developed rheumatoid arthritis.

After adjusting for factors such as smoking habits, alcohol intake and age,  researchers at the Institute of Environmental Medicine at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm found women with consistently high daily intake in both 1987 and 1997 of omega-3 fish oils had a 52 per cent lower risk of developing the condition.

The study attributed the benefit to the long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (Pufa) content in fish.

Rheumatoid arthritis, which affects around 580,000 men and women across England and Wales, is a chronic inflammatory disease that causes pain and swelling in the joints.

It is thought that omega-3 fatty acids block the body’s response to inflammation.

Oily fish contain the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which are considered essential because the body cannot make them from other sources and must obtain them through diet.

The best source is fish such as mackerel, herring, salmon, sardines or trout.


Children of overweight women die younger

Of course they do.  They are more likely to be working class.  Some insight shown in the last sentence below

CHILDREN born from obese women are 35 per cent more likely to die prematurely in adulthood, according to a new study that warns of a growing epidemic.

Researchers in Scotland traced 37,709 children of 28,540 women who gave birth between 1950 and 1976.

The children were aged from 34 to 61 at the time of the study published in the online journal

Researchers included the data of 6,551 children that had already died prior to the start of the study.

Of the mothers, 21 per cent were overweight - meaning a body mass index (BMI) or height-to-weight ratio of 25 to 29.9 - and four per cent obese, with a BMI of 30 or more, when they gave birth.

"The offspring of obese mothers were 35 per cent and those of overweight women 11 per cent more likely to die before the age of 55 years than those of normal-weight mothers," said study co-author Rebecca Reynolds, professor of metabolic medicine at the University of Edinburgh.

The team also found that the children of obese mothers were 42 per cent more at risk of being admitted to hospital for heart disease as adults.

"Our results suggest that the intrauterine (womb) environment has a crucial and long-lasting effect on risk of premature mortality in offspring," the study said.

Other research has shown that conditions in the womb can cause lifelong body changes, which may affect such functions as appetite control and metabolism.

But post-birth factors like diet and exercise or a genetic propensity to be obese could not be ruled out as the cause of the children's health problems.

"Strategies to optimise weight before pregnancy are urgently required," wrote the team - given that about one in five pregnant women in the UK are obese.

"We also need to consider giving good lifestyle advice to children of obese mothers and early monitoring of risk factors for heart disease such as high blood pressure, blood sugar, blood fats and smoking," added Reynolds.

According to the World Health Organisation, more than 1.4 billion adults aged 20 and older were overweight in 2008 - a figure that had nearly doubled since 1980.

More than a third of adults were overweight in 2008, and 11 per cent obese. At least 2.8 million adults die every year as a result of weight-related health problems.

Experts commenting on the study stressed the need for further research to confirm a direct, causal link between a woman's obesity and her child's risk of dying young.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Unruly kids become fatter adults?

Looking at the actual tables of results attached to the journal article is enlightening here.  Table S3 is particularly interesting.  The major predictor of health was in fact gender.  No surprise when we reflect that women live longer.  The beta weights for all other variables were small to negligible.  And Table S3 shows us that conscientiousness predicted obesity very weakly indeed (beta -0.09) and was marginally significant statistically only by virtue of the large sample size. The other significant results showed that Hawaiian natives were fatter and Japanese Hawaiians were slimmer.  No surprises there.  Much ado about nothing here, I think

Research has revealed that a person's behaviour as a child could have a startling impact on their waistline in their future. The longitudinal study observed a group of Hawaiian schoolchildren in the 1960s and then compared their vital statistics today as 50-year-old adults.

The research found that children who acted in an irresponsible and careless manner compared to those who do not were prone to adult obesity, with the children who exhibited lower conscientiousness also generally experiencing worse overall health as adults.

The Oregon Research Institute (ORI) study examined the relationship between childhood personality and adult health. It showed a strong association between childhood conscientiousness (organised, dependable, self-disciplined) and health status in adulthood, as reported in Science Daily.

ORI scientist Sarah Hampson, Ph.D., and colleagues at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health, Hawaii report these findings in the August issue of Health Psychology.

'Others have shown that more conscientiousness children live longer. Now we have shown that these conscientious children are also healthier at midlife' noted Dr. Hampson, while on a panel on personality and health at the national American Psychological Association meeting in Honolulu.

Hawaiian school-children rated by their teachers in the 1960s as less conscientious had worse global health status as adults. They also had significantly greater obesity, high cholesterol, and increased risk for cardiovascular disease.

Childhood conscientiousness was significantly associated with decreased function of the cardiovascular and metabolic systems.
People who are more conscientious have better health habits and less stress, protecting them from disease

People who are more conscientious have better health habits and less stress, protecting them from disease

This association was independent of the other big five personality childhood traits (extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability, and intellect/imagination), adult conscientiousness, childhood socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and gender.

This is the first study in which all the big five personality traits assessed in childhood have been used to predict objective health status assessed by multiple biomarkers over 40 years later in older adulthood.

More than 2,000 children from entire classrooms in elementary schools on two Hawaiian Islands were comprehensively assessed on their personality characteristics.

The National Institute of Mental Health funded the ORI researchers in 1998 to locate and examine the health-related behaviors and mental and physical health status of these individuals.

Researchers managed to convince almost 75 per cent of those in the original group who could be located (mean age 51 years) to participate.

More than 800 individuals completed a medical and psychological examination supported by subsequent grants from the National Institute on Ageing.

The physical examinations included biomarkers of cardiovascular and metabolic systems such as height, weight, waist and hip circumference, blood pressure, cholesterol and fasting blood glucose.

'These findings suggest avenues for further research that may lead to interventions.

'People who are more conscientious tend to have better health habits and less stress, which protects them from disease.

'Self-control is a key part of being conscientious, so our findings confirm the importance of teaching children self-control to enable then to grow up to be healthy adults,' said Hampson.

Childhood conscientiousness relates to objectively measured adult physical health four decades later.

Hampson, Sarah E. et al.


Objective: Many life span personality-and-health models assume that childhood personality traits result in life-course pathways leading through morbidity to mortality. Although childhood conscientiousness in particular predicts mortality, there are few prospective studies that have investigated the associations between childhood personality and objective health status in adulthood. The present study tested this crucial assumption of life span models of personality and health using a comprehensive assessment of the Big Five traits in childhood (M age = 10 years) and biomarkers of health over 40 years later (M age = 51 years). Methods: Members of the Hawaii Personality and Health Cohort (N = 753; 368 men, 385 women) underwent a medical examination at mean age 51. Their global health status was evaluated by well-established clinical indicators that were objectively measured using standard protocols, including blood pressure, lipid profile, fasting blood glucose, and body mass index. These indicators were combined to evaluate overall physiological dysregulation and grouped into five more homogeneous subcomponents (glucose intolerance, blood pressure, lipids, obesity, and medications). Results: Lower levels of childhood conscientiousness predicted more physiological dysregulation (β = −.11, p < .05), greater obesity (β = −.10, p < .05), and worse lipid profiles (β = −.10, p < .05), after controlling for the other Big Five childhood personality traits, gender, ethnicity, parental home ownership, and adult conscientiousness. Conclusions: These findings are consistent with a key assumption in life span models that childhood conscientiousness is associated with objective health status in older adults. They open the way for testing mechanisms by which childhood personality may influence mortality through morbidity; mechanisms that could then be targeted for intervention.


Is sugar an invisible killer? Even 'safe' levels of the sweet stuff could lead to an early death, scientists warn

The old sugar scare rolls on.  Mouse study only.  Using mice to predict human longevity is absurd.  Amusing that there was no effect on obesity, though

   U.S. scientists believe even 'safe' levels of dietary sugar could be having invisible adverse effects on people's health.   Scientists said 'safe' levels of dietary sugar - found in a can of fizzy drink, for example - could be having invisible adverse effects on people's health

Researchers gave mice the equivalent of a healthy human diet plus three cans of fizzy drink a day and found the female animals died twice as fast as those whose food was not largely composed of sugar.

Male mice consuming the sugary diet were less able to hold territory and reproduce, leading scientists to speculate that sugar has a damaging effect on the health of mammals, including humans.

Scientists from the University of Utah said the mice showed no sign of suffering serious physical changes in their bodies.

Writing in the online edition of the journal Nature Communications, the researchers said: 'Our results provide evidence that added sugar consumed at concentrations currently considered safe exerts dramatic adverse impacts on mammalian health.'

Mice on the experimental diet received 25 percent of their energy intake in the form of added sugar, no matter how many calories they ate.

In human terms this was equivalent to a person eating a normal healthy diet plus three cans of sugar-sweetened fizzy drinks a day.

After 32 weeks, more than a third of the female mice fed extra sugar died - twice the number fed a non-sugary diet.

The death rate of males was not affected, but their survival behaviour was.

Males on the sugary diet acquired and held on to 26 percent fewer territories than their normal diet nest-mates and produced 25 percent fewer offspring.

Study leader Professor Wayne Potts,at the university, said: 'This demonstrates the adverse effects of added sugars at human-relevant levels.'

To observe the mice in a more realistic setting, the researchers kept them in room-sized pens rather than cages.

This allowed them to compete more naturally for mates and desirable territories.

Despite the effects on the mice, the sugar-fed animals showed only minor metabolic changes, including raised cholesterol.

The study found nothing unusual in terms of obesity or insulin and blood sugar levels.

'Our test shows an adverse outcome from the added-sugar diet that couldn't be detected by conventional tests,' said Professor Potts.