Friday, February 28, 2014

Breast milk is 'no better for a baby than bottled milk' - and it INCREASES the risk of asthma, expert claims

A new round in the great breastfeeding war.  This study measured IQ as a confounder  -- rarely done but important.  So I think its conclusions are the best yet

The benefits of breastfeeding have been exaggerated, a new study has suggested.  A comparison of siblings fed differently during infancy suggests breast milk is no better than bottled milk at improving long-term health.

Dr Cynthia Colen, from Ohio State University, said her findings are not meant to challenge established ideas, but could prevent women who cannot breastfeed from feeling stigmatised.

Those promoting the 'breast is best' message, including the Department of Health, say a mother's milk wards off a host of ills.  NHS leaflets given to pregnant women and new mothers claim breastfeeding protects against obesity, allergies, asthma and diabetes.

But Dr Colen’s research suggests breastfed children perform no better than their siblings who are bottle-fed.

It showed they are no more likely to be obese and that they do not perform better academically.

Dr Colen also claims that children who are breastfed are more likely to develop asthma than those who are bottle-fed.

She said: ‘Many previous studies suffer from selection bias. They either do not or cannot statistically control for factors such as race, age, family income, mother's employment - things we know that can affect both breast-feeding and health outcomes.

‘Mums with more resources - with higher levels of education and higher levels of income - and more flexibility in their daily schedules are more likely to breastfeed their children and do so for longer periods of time.’

Dr Colen said: ‘I'm not saying breastfeeding is not beneficial, especially for boosting nutrition and immunity in newborns.

‘But if we really want to improve maternal and child health, let's also focus on things that can really do that in the long term - like subsidised day care, better maternity leave policies and more employment opportunities for low-income mothers that pay a living wage, for example.’

She used data from the 1979 cohort of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, a nationally representative sample of young men and women.

She analysed a total of 8,237 children made up of 7,319 siblings and 1,773 ‘discordant’ sibling pairs, where one was breastfed with the other given a bottle.

The study measured BMI (body mass index), obesity, asthma, hyperactivity, parental attachment and behaviour as well as scores predicting academic achievement in vocabulary, reading, maths, intelligence and scholastic competence.

Across all of the families, breastfeeding resulted in better outcomes in BMI, hyperactivity, maths, reading recognition, vocabulary word identification, digit recollection, scholastic competence and obesity.

But when restricted to siblings differently fed within the same families, scores reflecting breastfeeding's positive effects on 10 of the indicators were closer to zero and not statistically significant - meaning any differences could have occurred by chance.

The researchers believe this means the siblings who were all breastfed probably performed better because of other factors, such as socioeconomic status.

The most surprising finding was that children who were breastfed were at greater risk of asthma.

However, this could be because the data relied on whether people said they had asthma, rather than whether they had been formally diagnosed with the condition.

Dr Colen said: ‘Instead of comparing across families we are comparing within families completely taking into account all of those characteristics - both measured and unmeasured - that differ by family such as parental education, household income and race/ethnicity.

‘If breastfeeding doesn't have the impact we think it will have on long-term childhood outcomes then even though it's very important in the short-term we really need to focus on other things.

‘We need to look at school quality, adequate housing and the type of employment parents have when their kids are growing up.

‘We need to take a much more careful look at what happens past that first year of life and understand breastfeeding might be very difficult, even untenable, for certain groups of women.

‘Rather than placing the blame at their feet let's be more realistic about what breastfeeding does and doesn't do.'


When an abject failure becomes a success

When I was young enough still to consider myself rational, I was irritated by patients who tried any remedy in desperation to save themselves from their fatal disease. I have long since mellowed and when an acquaintance of mine with glioblastoma, a rapidly fatal brain tumor, decided recently to go to India to try Ayurvedic medicine, all I could do was wish him luck – sincerely so. After all, the scientific medicine — which he would continue to take while there — offered him little enough hope, a few months at most. (This case, incidentally, illustrates an important point: alternative medicine, so called, is not generally alternative, it is additional.)

Two trials of a very expensive monoclonal antibody, bevacizumab, in glioblastoma, published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine, make disappointing or even dismal reading. This antibody is directed at vascular endothelial growth factor that promotes the growth of new blood vessels; glioblastoma is a tumor particularly rich in new blood vessels, and so it was hoped that by preventing them from forming, tumor growth would either be prevented or at least slowed. Early results were promising but as has so often been the way in the history of medicine, early promise is not fulfillment of promise.

In one trial, for example, 637 patients with this terrible tumor were randomized to conventional treatment plus placebo and conventional treatment plus bevacizumab. Although the latter had a slightly longer period free of progression of the tumor, their overall length of survival was not increased, and indeed they suffered so many more side effects that the overall quality of their lives was worse. The patients taking bevacizumab survived on average 15.7 months; those taking placebo survived 16.1 months. The authors of the paper end:

"In conclusion, we did not observe an overall survival advantage first-line use of bevacizumab in patients with newly diagnosed glioblastoma. Furthermore, higher rates of neurocognitive decline, increased symptom severity, and decline in health-related quality of life were found over time among patients who were treated with bevacizumab."

This makes rather odd the concluding words of an editorial that accompanies the trials in the Journal:

"Finally, it is worth noting that despite its limitations, bevacizumab remains the single most important therapeutic agent for glioblastoma since temozolemide. Ongoing and future trials will better define how and when it should be used in this population of patients for whom so few treatment options currently exist."


Thursday, February 27, 2014

Taking paracetamol during pregnancy 'may raise the risk of a child developing ADHD'

Another bit of the conventional wisdom crumbles. Paracetamol/Tylenol was always promoted as a "safe" alternative to aspirin.  It never was but that is increasingly becoming known

Using paracetamol during pregnancy may raise the risk of children developing ADHD, warn researchers.

Around half of women take over-the-counter painkillers during pregnancy, usually for headaches.

Researchers found that taking paracetamol (know as acetaminophen in the U.S. and the main ingredient in Tylenol) increased the risk of hyperactivity disorders by up to a third.

The risk was higher in mothers taking the painkillers for long periods while pregnant.

The international team of researchers behind a new study warn that widespread use mean the results are important but need to be confirmed by further investigations.

Paracetamol, known as acetaminophen in some countries, may act as a hormone disruptor in the womb, interfering with normal brain development.

NHS advice to pregnant women needing short-term pain relief is to take paracetamol at the lowest dose for the shortest period of time.

NHS Choices states: ‘There is no clear evidence that it has any harmful effects on the unborn baby.’

But the new study suggests taking the over-the-counter pills in pregnancy could be linked to ADHD, which stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

ADHD is the term given to a collection of behavioural problems linked to poor attention span including impulsiveness, restlessness and hyperactivity.

An estimated 400,000 British children have ADHD, with many prescribed drugs to try and improve their concentration at school.

The new study looked at data on more than 64,000 children and mothers in Denmark between 1996 and 2002, while parents reported behavioural problems on a questionnaire.

More than half the mothers reported using paracetamol while pregnant.

Its use was linked with a 37 per cent higher risk of hyperkinetic disorders - a severe form of ADHD.

Children of women using the painkiller were 29 per cent more at risk of eventually taking drugs to control ADHD, and 13 per cent more likely to have ADHD-like behaviours at the age of seven.

There were higher risks for the children of women who used the drug for six months or more while pregnant and higher amounts.
Taking paracetamol during pregnancy could increase the risk of ADHD by up to a third

Taking paracetamol during pregnancy could increase the risk of ADHD by up to a third

The risk of hyperkinetic disorders almost doubled and the risk for receiving ADHD drugs rose 50 per cent, says a report in JAMA Pediatrics.

Dr Zeyan Liew of the University of California, Los Angeles, who led the team, said: ‘Some recent studies have suggested that acetaminophen has effects on sex and other hormones, which in turn can affect neurodevelopment and cause behavioural dysfunction.

‘Because the exposure and outcomes are frequent, these results are of public health relevance but further investigations are needed.’
About half of women take over-the-counter painkillers while they are pregnant

About half of women take over-the-counter painkillers while they are pregnant

Previous research has suggested painkillers including paracetamol in pregnancy may harm development of the sex organs in unborn boys.

A study found prolonged use of painkillers - two weeks or more - may contribute to an increased risk in boys born with undescended testicles.

Dr Kate Langley, Developmental and Health Psychology, Cardiff University, and co-author of an editorial on the latest research, said: ‘This is an interesting but preliminary study which requires further investigation to see if there really is a causal link between taking paracetamol during pregnancy and ADHD in childhood.

‘These findings should therefore be taken with caution and should not change practice.

‘There are many reasons why women take paracetamol during pregnancy and it is possible that it is one of those factors, rather than the taking of paracetamol itself, which leads to a higher risk of childhood ADHD.

‘It may be important to take medications such as paracetamol during pregnancy and pregnant women should continue to follow advice from their own healthcare professionals.’

Professor Jim Stevenson, Emeritus Professor of Developmental Psychopathology at the University of Southampton said: ‘The study on a large sample of Danish mothers was carefully conducted and analysed. However, as the authors recognise, and the accompanying editorial makes plain, an association in such an observational study cannot establish a causal link.

‘The study should be used as basis for further experimental research not least because exposure to paracetamol during pregnancy is so common.’


Surviving Whole Foods

My post about Whole Foods yesterday hit the spot in certain quarters so I thought an even more disrespectful post might please  -- JR

Kelly MacLean

Whole Foods is like Vegas. You go there to feel good but you leave broke, disoriented, and with the newfound knowledge that you have a vaginal disease.

Unlike Vegas, Whole Foods' clientele are all about mindfulness and compassion... until they get to the parking lot. Then it's war. As I pull up this morning, I see a pregnant lady on the crosswalk holding a baby and groceries. This driver swerves around her and honks. As he speeds off I catch his bumper sticker, which says 'NAMASTE'. Poor lady didn't even hear him approaching because he was driving a Prius. He crept up on her like a panther.

As the great, sliding glass doors part I am immediately smacked in the face by a wall of cool, moist air that smells of strawberries and orchids. I leave behind the concrete jungle and enter a cornucopia of organic bliss; the land of hemp milk and honey. Seriously, think about Heaven and then think about Whole Foods; they're basically the same.

The first thing I see is the great wall of kombucha -- 42 different kinds of rotten tea. Fun fact: the word kombucha is Japanese for 'I gizzed in your tea.' Anyone who's ever swallowed the glob of mucus at the end of the bottle knows exactly what I'm talking about. I believe this thing is called "The Mother," which makes it that much creepier.

Next I see the gluten-free section filled with crackers and bread made from various wheat-substitutes such as cardboard and sawdust. I skip this aisle because I'm not rich enough to have dietary restrictions. Ever notice that you don't meet poor people with special diet needs? A gluten intolerant house cleaner? A cab driver with Candida? Candida is what I call a rich, white person problem. You know you've really made it in this world when you get Candida. My personal theory is that Candida is something you get from too much hot yoga. All I'm saying is if I were a yeast, I would want to live in your yoga pants.

Next I approach the beauty aisle. There is a scary looking machine there that you put your face inside of and it tells you exactly how ugly you are. They calculate your wrinkles, sun spots, the size of your pores, etc. and compare it to other women your age. I think of myself attractive but as it turns out, I am 78 percent ugly, meaning less pretty than 78 percent of women in the world. On the popular 1-10 hotness scale used by males the world over, that makes me a 3 (if you round up, which I hope you will.) A glance at the extremely close-up picture they took of my face, in which I somehow have a glorious, blond porn mustache, tells me that 3 is about right. Especially because the left side of my face is apparently 20 percent more aged than the right. Fantastic. After contemplating ending it all here and now, I decide instead to buy their product. One bottle of delicious smelling, silky feeling creme that is maybe going to raise me from a 3 to a 4 for only $108 which is a pretty good deal when you think about it.

I grab a handful of peanut butter pretzels on my way out of this stupid aisle. I don't feel bad about pilfering these bites because of the umpteen times that I've overpaid at the salad bar and been tricked into buying $108 beauty creams. The pretzels are very fattening but I'm already in the seventieth percentile of ugly so who cares.

Next I come to the vitamin aisle which is a danger zone for any broke hypochondriac. Warning: Whole Foods keeps their best people in this section. Although you think she's a homeless person at first, that vitamin clerk is an ex-pharmaceuticals sales rep. Today she talks me into buying estrogen for my mystery mustache and Women's Acidophilus because apparently I DO have Candida after all.

I move on to the next aisle and ask the nearest Whole Foods clerk for help. He's wearing a visor inside and as if that weren't douchey enough, it has one word on it in all caps. Yup, NAMASTE. I ask him where I can find whole wheat bread. He chuckles at me "Oh, we keep the poison in aisle 7." Based solely on the attitudes of people sporting namaste paraphernalia today, I'd think it was Sanskrit for "go fuck yourself."

I pass the table where the guy invites me to join a group cleanse he's leading. For $179.99 I can not-eat not-alone... not-gonna-happen. They're doing the cleanse where you consume nothing but lemon juice, cayenne pepper and fiber pills for 10 days, what's that one called again? Oh, yeah...anorexia. I went on a cleanse once; it was a mixed blessing. On the one hand, I detoxified, I purified, I lost weight. On the other hand, I fell asleep on the highway, fantasized about eating a pigeon, and crapped my pants. I think I'll stick with the whole eating thing.

I grab a couple of loaves of poison, and head to checkout. The fact that I'm at Whole Foods on a Sunday finally sinks in when I join the end of the line...halfway down the dog food aisle. I suddenly realize that I'm dying to get out of this store. Maybe it's the lonely feeling of being a carnivore in a sea of vegans, or the newfound knowledge that some people's dogs eat better than I do, but mostly I think it's the fact that Yanni has been playing literally this entire time. Like sensory deprivation, listening to Yanni seems harmless at first, enjoyable even. But two hours in, you'll chew your own ear off to make it stop.

A thousand minutes later, I get to the cashier. She is 95 percent beautiful. "Have you brought your reusable bags?" Fuck. No, they are at home with their 2 dozen once-used friends. She rings up my meat, alcohol, gluten and a wrapper from the chocolate bar I ate in line, with thinly veiled alarm. She scans my ladies acidophilus, gives me a pitying frown and whispers, "Ya know, if you wanna get rid of your Candida, you should stop feeding it." She rings me up for $313. I resist the urge to unwrap and swallow whole another $6 truffle in protest. Barely. Instead, I reach for my wallet, flash her a quiet smile and say, "Namaste."


Namaste is an Indian greeting/farewell

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Cutting back on fry-ups 'reduces risk of dementia': Study finds

If you are a mouse.  More information about the study here

A ‘compelling’ study has linked compounds found in fried meat and eggs with one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease.

Bacon is particularly problematic and the suspect chemicals are also found in many cakes, biscuits and pastries.

The researchers said that reducing intake could help prevent the crippling condition – and may even help restore memory that has been lost.

The research, from Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, focused on compounds called advanced glycation end products, or AGEs.

They are formed when fat, protein and sugar react on being heated and are found in particularly high levels in bacon, sausages, pizzas and burgers.

Frying and grilling is particularly bad, while boiling does not lead to them being made.

The researchers tracked the progress of a group of mice fed food containing levels of AGEs proportional to those in a Western diet and another group fed half the amount of the compound.

Their calorie intake was the same but only the mice on the AGE-rich diet suffered problems with memory, learning and co-ordination as they get older.

They also made less of an anti-ageing protein and their brains contained beta-amyloid, a sticky protein considered a hallmark of Alzheimer’s.

Results of experiments on people were similarly striking.  Tests on healthy pensioners showed that only those who had high amounts of AGEs in their diet became more forgetful over the coming months.  [Small correlational study only]

More work is needed but the researchers said cutting back on the compounds might help improve mental sharpness and ‘combat the epidemic’ of Alzheimer’s disease.

Tom Dening, professor of dementia research at Nottingham University, said that the studies needed to prove that cutting back on AGEs helps prevent Alzheimer’s would be lengthy.

He said: ‘In the meantime, crunch those carrots and reach for the brown rice.’

Professor Derek Hill, of University College London, said: ‘These results are compelling.  Because cures for Alzheimer’s disease remain a distant hope, efforts to prevent it are extremely important.’

Professor Simon Lovestone, of Oxford University, said that the solution will not be as simple as cutting back on one type of food and eating more of another.

Instead, he hopes that learning more about what goes wrong in the body and brain will lead to new drugs.

Dr Simon Ridley, of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: ‘This research is at an early stage, and continued investment in research is crucial to understand the significance of results like this.

‘The diseases that cause dementia are complex, and our risk of the condition is likely to be affected by a number of genetic and environmental factors that are not yet fully understood.

‘In the meantime, the best evidence suggests that a balanced diet can help lower the risk of Alzheimer’s, as part of a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise, not smoking, and keeping blood pressure and weight in check.’


Whole Foods: America’s Temple of Pseudoscience

Americans get riled up about creationists and climate change deniers, but lap up the quasi-religious snake oil at Whole Foods. It’s all pseudoscience—so why are some kinds of pseudoscience more equal than others?

If you want to write about spiritually-motivated pseudoscience in America, you head to the Creation Museum in Kentucky. It’s like a Law of Journalism. The museum has inspired hundreds of book chapters and articles (some of them, admittedly, mine) since it opened up in 2007. The place is like media magnet. And our nation’s liberal, coastal journalists are so many piles of iron fillings.

But you don’t have to schlep all the way to Kentucky in order to visit America’s greatest shrine to pseudoscience. In fact, that shrine is a 15-minute trip away from most American urbanites.

I’m talking, of course, about Whole Foods Market. From the probiotics aisle to the vaguely ridiculous Organic Integrity outreach effort (more on that later), Whole Foods has all the ingredients necessary to give Richard Dawkins nightmares. And if you want a sense of how weird, and how fraught, the relationship between science, politics, and commerce is in our modern world, then there’s really no better place to go. Because anti-science isn’t just a religious, conservative phenomenon—and the way in which it crosses cultural lines can tell us a lot about why places like the Creation Museum inspire so much rage, while places like Whole Foods don’t.

My own local Whole Foods is just a block away from the campus of Duke University. Like almost everything else near downtown Durham, N.C., it’s visited by a predominantly liberal clientele that skews academic, with more science PhDs per capita than a Mensa convention.

Still, there’s a lot in your average Whole Foods that’s resolutely pseudoscientific. The homeopathy section has plenty of Latin words and mathematical terms, but many of its remedies are so diluted that, statistically speaking, they may not contain a single molecule of the substance they purport to deliver. The book section—yep, Whole Foods sells books—boasts many M.D.’s among its authors, along with titles like The Coconut Oil Miracle and Herbal Medicine, Healing, and Cancer, which was written by a theologian and based on what the author calls the Eclectic Triphasic Medical System.

You can buy chocolate with “a meld of rich goji berries and ashwagandha root to strengthen your immune system,” and bottles of ChlorOxygen chlorophyll concentrate, which “builds better blood.” There’s cereal with the kind of ingredients that are “made in a kitchen—not in a lab,” and tea designed to heal the human heart.

Whenever we talk about science and society, it helps to keep in mind that very few of us are anywhere near rational.
Nearby are eight full shelves of probiotics—live bacteria intended to improve general health. I invited a biologist friend who studies human gut bacteria to come take a look with me. She read the healing claims printed on a handful of bottles and frowned. “This is bullshit,” she said, and went off to buy some vegetables. Later, while purchasing a bag of chickpeas, I browsed among the magazine racks. There was Paleo Living, and, not far away, the latest issue of What Doctors Don’t Tell You. Pseudoscience bubbles over into anti-science. A sample headline: “Stay sharp till the end: the secret cause of Alzheimer’s.” A sample opening sentence: “We like to think that medicine works.”

At times, the Whole Foods selection slips from the pseudoscientific into the quasi-religious. It’s not just the Ezekiel 4:9 bread (its recipe drawn from the eponymous Bible verse), or Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, or Vitamineral Earth’s “Sacred Healing Food.” It’s also, at least for Jewish shoppers, the taboos that have grown up around the company’s Organic Integrity effort, all of which sound eerily like kosher law.

There’s a sign in the Durham store suggesting that shoppers bag their organic and conventional fruit separately—lest one rub off on the other—and grind their organic coffees at home—because the Whole Foods grinders process conventional coffee, too, and so might transfer some non-organic dust. “This slicer used for cutting both CONVENTIONAL and ORGANIC breads” warns a sign above the Durham location’s bread slicer. Synagogue kitchens are the only other places in which I’ve seen signs implying that level of food-separation purity.

Look, if homeopathic remedies make you feel better, take them. If the Paleo diet helps you eat fewer TV dinners, that’s great—even if the Paleo diet is probably premised more on The Flintstones than it is on any actual evidence about human evolutionary history. If non-organic crumbs bother you, avoid them. And there’s much to praise in Whole Foods’ commitment to sustainability and healthful foods.

Still: a significant portion of what Whole Foods sells is based on simple pseudoscience. And sometimes that can spill over into outright anti-science (think What Doctors Don’t Tell You, or Whole Foods’ overblown GMO campaign, which could merit its own article). If scientific accuracy in the public sphere is your jam, is there really that much of a difference between Creation Museum founder Ken Ham, who seems to have made a career marketing pseudoscience about the origins of the world, and John Mackey, a founder and CEO of Whole Foods Market, who seems to have made a career, in part, out of marketing pseudoscience about health?

Well, no—there isn’t really much difference, if the promulgation of pseudoscience in the public sphere is, strictly speaking, the only issue at play. By the total lack of outrage over Whole Foods’ existence, and by the total saturation of outrage over the Creation Museum, it’s clear that strict scientific accuracy in the public sphere isn’t quite as important to many of us as we might believe. Just ask all those scientists in the aisles of my local Whole Foods.

So, why do many of us perceive Whole Foods and the Creation Museum so differently? The most common liberal answer to that question isn’t quite correct: namely, that creationists harm society in a way that homeopaths don’t. I’m not saying that homeopathy is especially harmful; I’m saying that creationism may be relatively harmless. In isolation, unless you’re a biologist, your thoughts on creation don’t matter terribly much to your fellow citizens; and unless you’re a physician, your reliance on Sacred Healing Food to cure all ills is your own business.

The danger is when these ideas get tied up with other, more politically muscular ideologies. Creationism often does, of course—that’s when we should worry. But as vaccine skeptics start to prompt public health crises, and GMO opponents block projects that could save lives in the developing world, it’s fair to ask how much we can disentangle Whole Foods’ pseudoscientific wares from very real, very worrying antiscientific outbursts.

Still, we let it off the hook. Why? Two reasons come to mind. The first is that Whole Foods is a for-profit business, while the Creation Museum is the manifestation of an explicitly religious and political movement. For some reason, there’s a special stream of American rage directed at ideological attacks on science that seems to evaporate when the offender is a for-profit corporation.

It wasn’t especially surprising that Bill Nye would go and debate Ken Ham; it would have been unusual had he, say, challenged executives at the biotech company Syngenta—which has seemingly been running a smear campaign against a Berkeley biologist—to a conversation about scientific integrity, or challenged Paleo Magazine’s editors to a debate about archaeology. For those of us outside the fundamentalist world, I imagine that the Creation Museum gift shop is the one part of the museum that makes some kind of sense. Well, okay, they’re trying to make money with this stuff. Meanwhile, Whole Foods responds to its customers, as any good business should.

And, second, we often have it stuck in our heads that science communicators have only failed to speak to the religious right. But while issues of science-and-society are always tied up, in some ways, with politics, they’re not bound to any particular part of the spectrum. Just ask Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., liberal political scion and vaccine skeptic extraordinaire, or Prince Charles, who pushed British health ministers to embrace homeopathic medicine.

Bringing sound data into political conversations and consumer decisions is a huge, ongoing challenge. It’s not limited to one side of the public debate. The moral is not that we should all boycott Whole Foods. It’s that whenever we talk about science and society, it helps to keep two rather humbling premises in mind: very few of us are anywhere near rational. And pretty much all of us are hypocrites.


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Clean teeth can hold off arthritis: Scientists discover link between gum disease bacteria and early onset of the condition

On close reading, they do not appear to have discovered a link between teeth and arthritis.  They have just found that the two share a bacterium

Brushing your teeth well could help prevent arthritis, scientists claim.  Researchers found a link between the bacterium responsible for gum disease and earlier onset of rheumatoid arthritis, as well as faster progression and greater severity of the condition.

The bacterium produces an enzyme which reacts with the residue of certain proteins.

The body recognises these proteins as intruders, leading to an immune attack, the researchers from the University of Louisville’s School of Dentistry in Kentucky said.

In arthritis patients, the subsequent result is chronic inflammation responsible for bone and cartilage destruction within the joints.

Previous studies have indicated that gum disease is at least two times  more prevalent in rheumatoid arthritis patients.

The bacterium, Porphyromonas gingivalis, produces a unique enzyme, peptidylarginine deiminanse (PAD).

They discovered that PAD changes residues of certain proteins into citrulline, and the body recognises these proteins as intruders, leading to an immune attack.

In rheumatoid arthritis patients, the subsequent result is chronic inflammation responsible for bone and cartilage destruction within the joints.

Researcher Dr Jan Potempa from the University of Louisville School of Dentistry Oral Health and Systemic Diseases said: 'Taken together, our results suggest that bacterial PAD may constitute the mechanistic link between P. gingivalis periodontal infection and rheumatoid arthritis, but this ground-breaking conclusion will need to be verified with further research.'

Dr Potempa and his team studied another oral bacterium, Prevotella intermedia for the same affect, but learned it did not produce PAD or the subsequent effects.

Writing in the study, published in PLOS Pathogens, Dr Potempa said he is hopeful these findings will shed new light on the treatment and prevention of rheumatoid arthritis.

Studies indicate that compared to the general population, people with periodontal disease have an increased prevalence of rheumatoid arthritis and periodontal disease is at least two times more prevalent in rheumatoid arthritis patients.

Other research has shown that a P. gingivalis infection in the mouth will precede rheumatoid arthritis and the bacterium is the likely culprit for onset and continuation of the autoimmune inflammatory responses that occur in the disease.


IVF children are just as healthy and smart as those conceived normally

And that is the usual finding  -- despite attempts by haters to generate alarm

CHILDREN conceived using assisted reproductive technology (ART) grow to be as healthy and achieve similar educational outcomes to those conceived normally.

A new study comparing adult’s born through reproductive technologies, such as IVF, with non-ART adults found only minor differences between the groups.

ART babies are at increased risk of preterm birth, low birth weight and being small for gestational age. The study’s authors wanted to check whether this led to poorer physical health as they developed.

While the research found the ART group were twice as likely to be admitted to hospital in the first 18 years of life, it was not for serious illness.

“There were increased frequencies of dental extractions, tonsillectomies, hernia repairs and testicular erosion,” said the Murdoch Children’s Institute study.

However, the authors explain the discrepancy as “increased parental vigilance associated with perceived vulnerability in a much-wanted baby”.

The ART adults had an increased risk of asthma and hay fever, were slightly more likely to develop Type 1 diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome and lactose intolerance, says the research published in the journal Fertility and Sterility on Thursday.

However, the study concludes “we found little evidence of significant health disparities”.

A significant increase in attention hyperactivity disorder in ART offspring disappeared when the study accounted for the significance of male gender in the study.

There was no evidence of any difference in autism, speech or learning difficulties or in sexual maturation between the two groups.

Around 80 per cent of both groups completed Year 12 and there was no significant difference in their tertiary entrance scores.

By the time they reached their mid-to-late twenties 48 per cent of ART offspring had completed tertiary education compared to 41 per cent in the non-ART group.

“Most have grown into healthy young adults, with a quality of life and educational achievements similar to their non-ART conceived peers,” the study concludes.

Candice Reed, the first child conceived using ART in Australia, was born in 1980 and many of the children born using this method are now adults.

This study tracked 656 Victorian mothers who used ART and their 547 young adult offspring aged between 18 and 29 years.

It compared their outcomes to reports from 868 mothers and their 549 young adult offspring who were conceived without ART.

Around 3.8 per cent of Australian mothers use ART to help them conceive and every year over 30,000 babies conceived in this way are born.

More than 4.3 million children around the world have been conceived using the technology.


Monday, February 24, 2014

MEN are warned: Older dads are more likely to have 'mutant sperm'

This seems pretty dubious to me.  Mutated sperm would be less fit and hence less likely to reach the egg first.  Nature's own filtering system should take care of the problem proposed

The longer a man delays fatherhood, the more likely his sperm is likely to become 'mutant', researchers have warned.

They say that older fathers have a higher risk of fathering a child with a disorder such as autism or schizophrenia.

This is because mutations cause stem cells in the testicles to divide abnormally, resulting in an increasing proportion of mutant sperm as men age, New Scientist reports.

Some studies have even linked having an older father to Alzheimer's disease, bipolar disorder (previously known as manic depression), heart disease and cancer.

Now, scientists warn that a man in his 40s is twice as likely to pass down potentially disease-forming genetic mutations as a man in his 20s - indicating that the biological clock ticks for men, too.

Plenty of high-profile men have become late-life fathers, including Steve Martin at 67, David at 53 and Des O'Connor, who became a father for the fifth time at 72.

For decades, scientists have speculated about links between older fathers and birth defects. But it was only recently that a groundbreaking study, published in the respected journal Nature, proved that men undoubtedly pass on more genetic mutations to their children as they get older.

Researchers sequenced the DNA of 78 Icelandic parents and their children and found a direct correlation between the father's age and the number of mutations linked to autism spectrum disorders and schizophrenia in a child's DNA.

The mother's age had no bearing on their risk - indeed, the team found that 97 per cent of all mutations in a child's DNA come from their father.

'Society has traditionally been very focused on the age of the mother,' says Dr Kari Stefansson, of Decode Genetics, a leading genetic research company, who led the study.

'But it seems that disorders such as schizophrenia and autism are actually influenced by the age of the father and not the mother.'

Dr Stefansson's report suggested that the apparently surging numbers of children diagnosed with autism may at least in part be explained by the ever-increasing age of fathers

It is thought that  just as a man's memory and skin elasticity gets worse with age, the quality of his sperm seems to as well.

Crucially, unlike women who are born with a complete set of eggs, men continually make new sperm throughout their lifetime.

Every 16 days, cells in the testicles divide and the DNA in each cell is copied into a new one which is used to make new sperm.

The body is highly accurate at making an exact copy, but inevitably it sometimes makes mistakes. Some sperm will be made containing an error in the DNA - what's known as a genetic mutation.

As a man gets older, the copying process becomes tired and less efficient and his sperm contains more mutations.

And if mutated sperm is then used to form a foetus, there's more chance of problems in its development, says Professor Wilkie.

'It's a game of chance. It may be that this mutation does not occur in a critical place. But sometimes the game of chance is against you and the mutation hits a gene that will lead or predispose your child to a certain condition.'

So if the mutation is in the gene controlling brain development, for example, it can cause autism or schizophrenia.

And potentially if a mutation occurs in a gene affecting your risk of a type of cancer, it could increase the chances of the child getting it in later life.

Dr Allan Pacey, the country's leading authority on male fertility, says it's time for a wake-up call on the dangers of putting off becoming a dad. 'I can understand why couples do it, but it's bad biology.

My advice is for men to have children as young as possible - don't wait until you're in your 50s. It will make all the difference in the world to your children's health.'


Another great fad unwinds:  Vitamin E supplements 'raise risk of prostate cancer by 20%... and have NO health benefits'

Men should not take high doses of vitamin E or selenium supplements because they have no health benefits and increase the risk of prostate cancer by up to a fifth, scientists have claimed.

Vitamin E, naturally found in nuts, spinach and broccoli, is taken to boost the body’s immune system and the mineral selenium, found in fish and meat, is taken to ward off heart disease.

But US researchers claim large doses of both can increase the risk of prostate cancer by 17 per cent.

This can rise to as much as 91 per cent if a man already has high levels of selenium before taking supplements.

The warning centres on high-dose supplements, with researchers saying there appear to be no risks from taking a standard multivitamin.

But nor were there any apparent benefits from the supplements.

Lead researcher Alan Kristal, of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle, said: ‘Men using these supplements should stop, period.

Neither selenium nor vitamin E supplementation confers any known benefits, only risks.’

The study looked in detail at a past trial, carried out to test whether extra vitamin E and selenium could help prevent prostate cancer.

But instead, researchers discovered more cases of prostate cancer among men taking 400 international units (IU) of vitamin E daily than those taking a placebo.

This is the equivalent of 363mg a day, which is 30 times the recommended daily amount.

Men with low levels of selenium were the most affected by extra vitamin E – with the supplements raising their prostate cancer risk by 63 per cent.

‘We know from several other studies that some high-dose dietary supplements – that is, supplements that provide far more than the daily recommended intakes of micronutrients – increase cancer risk.’

More than 35,000 healthy men in their 50s and older took part in the initial trial, which began in 2001. Further investigation of this data, published yesterday in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, revealed the latest findings.

In the UK, the recommended daily amount of vitamin E is 12mg, and most multivitamin pills contain between 15mg and 30mg.

However, the UK Expert Group on Vitamins and Minerals says the upper ‘safe’ limit is between 700 and 800mg a day – twice as much as taken in the trial.

Dr Matthew Hobbs, deputy director of research at Prostate Cancer UK, said more studies were needed, but added: ‘If men are concerned about their prostate cancer risk, rather than worrying about selenium  and vitamin E supplements, they should talk to a GP


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Changing advice

I don't think that the writer below has got it completely right but the article does show the importance of skepticism

The seven foods below are ancient. But they’ve gone from being considered healthy (long ago) to unhealthy (within the last generation or two) to healthy again, even essential.

1) Coconut Oil

Old wisdom: Coconut oil is a saturated-fat body bomb that should be avoided.

New wisdom: Coconut oil can cure what ails you.

Talk about an about-face. Anyone who grew up eating such nutritious fare as SpaghettiOs, Nestle Quik and Bisquick—actually, anyone old enough to vote in the United States—probably doesn’t remember a jar of coconut oil in the cupboard, or anywhere in the family diet.

Why? Coconut oil was stigmatized after flawed studies decades ago tested partially hydrogenated coconut oil for its ill effects. Now, of course, we know that the chemical process of hydrogenation is what does a body ill. That’s true whether the oil consumed is coconut, corn, canola, soy or any other.

It turns out that unrefined coconut oil offers terrific health benefits. Yes, it is a saturated fat. But the scientific consensus on whether saturated fats are bad for us is changing. Now researchers are stressing that saturated fats like coconut oil actually lower bad cholesterol in our bodies. Studies of people in countries that consume high amounts of coconut oil have found fewer instances of heart disease than in nations, such as the United States, where coconut oil has not been a staple. Coconut oil is rich in lauric acid, which is known for its antiviral, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial properties. Coconut oil, the new wisdom says, is good for our bodies inside and out. Studies and anecdotal evidence across the blogosphere tout coconut oil as a wondrous beauty aid, which can and should be used as a moisturizer to reduce lines and wrinkles, a moisturizer for dry hair, a soap and mouthwash.

2) Coffee

Old Wisdom: Coffee equals caffeine equals bad for you.

New Wisdom: Coffee is loaded with antioxidants and other nutrients that improve your health. Plus, a little caffeine makes the world go round.

Why? Actually, most of the world never bought into the whole caffeine/coffee scare that made so many Americans start to swear off coffee, or heaven help us, switch to decaf. But these days, the U.S., chock full of Starbucks, has come around. Several prominent studies conducted over the last few years unearthed a bounty of benefits in the average cup of joe. As everyone knows, caffeine boosts energy. Based on controlled human trials, it has also been proven to fire up the neurons and make you sharper, with improved memory, reaction time, mood, vigilance and general cognitive function. It can also boost your metabolism, lower your risk of Type II diabetes, protect you from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, and lower the risk of Parkinson’s. Whew.

3) Whole Milk

Old wisdom: High-fat milk lead to obesity. Exposing children to lower-fat options keeps them leaner and healthier and instills the low-fat habit.

New Wisdom: Ha!

A study at Harvard University found that despite recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics that children drink skim or low-fat milk after age two, doing so did not make for leaner or healthier children. In fact, the study found the opposite. Kids who consumed skim milk were likely to be fatter than those who drank it whole. Turns out that skim drinkers were more likely to indulge in junk food, which spiked their blood sugar levels, leading to more cravings for junk. And so on and so on.

4) Salt

Old Wisdom: Salt kills. It raises blood pressures, causes hypertension and increases the risk of premature death.

New Wisdom: Salt is essential to health. Too little salt can actually lead to premature death.

The new wisdom is actually older than the old wisdom. Long before it became the number-one evildoer in the Department of Agriculture’s hit list, worse than fats, sugar and booze, salt was considered so valuable to body and soul that it was literally used as currency. Homer called it a “divine substance.” Plato described is as dear to the Gods. The Romans considered it the spice of life; a man in love was salax—in a salted state. Only fairly recently, in that oh-so-wise 20th century, did salt become the bad guy at the dinner table.

It turns out that high-sodium processed “food” is the real villain in our diets. Unrefined salt, such as Himalayan salt or raw sea salts, contain 60 or more valuable trace minerals. It supports thyroid function and a faster metabolism and speeds the elimination of cortisol, the stress hormone that causes weight gain. Did you know salt is also a natural antihistamine (a pinch on the tongue may stem an allergic reaction). Finally, unrefined salt is needed for good digestion.

5) Chocolate

Old Wisdom: Chocolate gives you pimples, makes you fat and creates heartburn.

New Wisdom: Dark chocolate is loaded with antioxidants.

Chocoholics of the world rejoiced when the food scientists started doing an about-face on chocolate. After a few decades on the vilified list, in 2001, scientists began doing a double take, with the New York Times reporting that the science on chocolate was up in the air. Ten years later, chocolate had moved squarely into the good-for-you column. A 2011 Cambridge University study concluded that chocolate “probably” lowers stroke rates, coronary heart disease and high blood pressure. A more recent study has found that regular chocolate consumers are often thinner than non-chocolate eaters.

No one is advising you to grab a Snickers bar for lunch, though. Eating chemically laden, sugar-bombed milk chocolate is still a no-no…for now, anyway.

6) Popcorn

Old Wisdom: Popcorn is junk food.

New Wisdom: Popcorn is a whole grain, loaded with nutrients.

Like most of the foods on this list, this one has caveats. If you consider popcorn something to douse with “butter-flavored topping” and shovel in your mouth at the multiplex, then keep it on the “bad” list. A study by the Center for Science in the Public Interest has concluded that movie theater popcorn—a medium tub, mind you—has 1,200 calories and 60 grams of the worst kind of saturated fat. And that’s before you add whatever it is that is supposed to taste like butter. That calorie count is the equivalent of three McDonald’s Quarter Pounders.

Microwave popcorn, laden with chemicals, is also bad. But homemade, air-popped (let’s add organic, for good measure) or made with good oil popcorn, well, that’s a snack of a different color. Last year, researchers at the University of Scranton revealed that homemade popcorn has more antioxidants—known as polyphenols—than fruits and vegetables. Polyphenols have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancers.

If that isn’t enough to make popcorn addicts rejoice, popcorn is a great source of fiber (it’s a whole grain) and is low in calories. Air-popped popcorn is the healthiest of all, with only 30 calories per cup.

7) Eggs

Old Wisdom: Eggs clog your arteries and increase your risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes and early death.

New Wisdom: Nonsense! Eggs are very nearly the perfect food.

How did this one happen? A century ago, when our grandparents gathered their eggs from the backyard hens, there was no controversy. Then cholesterol became the big bugaboo, and all of a sudden, we were being lectured to limit our consumption of eggs to four a week, if any.

Last year, scientists decided to settle the matter once and for all. A meta-analysis of 17 studies on egg consumption and health discovered that eggs did not contribute—at all—to heart disease or stroke in healthy individuals. On the contrary, eggs raise our good (HDL) cholesterol numbers and change the bad (LDL) cholesterol from small and dense to large and benign. Eggs are also high in iron and protein and two antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthine, which protect against age-related eye disorders like macular degeneration and cataracts.

The key is to eat eggs from free-range, happy and healthy chickens, just like in the old days, and avoid eggs that come from sickly, antibiotic-soaked, factory farm hens.


Eating More Fat Could Save Your Life

Low-fat diets, as recommended in new obesity guidelines released last month, may actually be contributing to our nation’s obesity epidemic. Are high-fat diets the answer?

The first time I showed up at a patient’s house with a tureen of fatty bone broth, I was scared it might cause her to have a stroke. As a lifelong dieter, I firmly believed that saturated fat was the enemy. As a physician, I was trapped by dietary guidelines into recommending low-fat foods.  But my patient wasn’t doing well and I had to do something radical. So I made her a big fatty meal and I hoped for the best.

What happened next won’t surprise anyone who’s ever been on the Atkin’s diet: My patient lost weight and her sugars got better. Even her asthma went away. Completely. That low-carb-high-fat (LCHF) diet saved her life.

So when the new obesity guidelines were released last month, I expected they might contain, well, some guidelines on when it’s appropriate to use a LCHF diet. But they say nothing of the sort. The new guidelines, brought to us by the same folks who delivered the now infamous cholesterol guidelines, primarily recommend calorie restriction and dietary counseling for anyone even slightly overweight—anyone with a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or more. 

Yet it’s well established that calorie restriction causes rebound weight gain.

So, this recommendation could very well serve to make a nation of fat people even fatter. This is, after all, exactly what obese people tell us—the more they diet, the fatter they get.  What’s more, many people now believe that along with the dangers of calorie restriction, low-fat diets themselves—the type the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends—might also be contributing to our obesity epidemic.

“While low-fat eating has increased, so have body weight and waistlines,” says Kerry Stewart, Professor of Medicine and Director of Clinical and Research Exercise Physiology at Johns Hopkins. “Based on what we know now about high carbohydrate eating, the obesity epidemic was predictable.”

And it is an epidemic (PDF): some 155 million Americans are overweight or obese (PDF).

This is a public health crisis that you might think would give us an all-hands-on-deck attitude. After all, if this were an infectious disease — a big collection of fat worms or something — it’s doubtful we’d keep recommending the same feeble treatment for decades and then blame the victims for not complying. No. We’d be scared. Scared for ourselves and our kids and our country.

We might even be frightened enough to reconsider our entire dietary approach. But the new obesity guidelines don’t address the low-fat/low-carb debate. Instead, they say there’s no good evidence to recommend any particular diet. (They say they reviewed 17 diets.) Yet, last month the Swedish obesity guidelines also came out, and after a review of 16,000 studies the Swedish committee endorsed LCHF diets as the most effective way to combat weight gain.

Our committee must have access to the same research the Swedes reviewed—so why there’s such a discrepancy is anybody’s guess.  But some believe that our committee is under pressure to not reverse 30 years of AHA low-fat doctrine—even if it’s causing an epidemic. Instead, the committee took the almost comical stance of implicating practicing physicians in the obesity crisis. As the co-chair of the committee Donna Ryan, MD, explained, “primary care physicians have not been trained in obesity etiology or pathogenesis much less in its diagnosis and treatment”.

Not only is this statement somewhat laughable—last I checked, most doctors knew how to use scales — but it’s also off mark. Previous guidelines have urged doctors not to spend time on diet and lifestyle recommendations as they’re not terribly fruitful. Nevertheless, ignoring the guidelines, some doctors have found very effective ways to achieve long lasting weight loss using Atkins-type LCHF diets. And at this point good evidence is building up in their corner:  LCHF diets lower blood sugar, insulin and triglycerides and raise good (HDL) cholesterol.

The improvements in cardiac risk factors notwithstanding, many physicians will remain cautious about recommending fatty diets because of the role fats may play in heart disease. After all, the only diets proven to open blocked arteries are no-added-fat vegetarian (Ornish-style) diets. Doctors are simply afraid that all that blubber is going to clog up our patients’ arteries, as I was when I threw caution to the wind and brought my patient a lamb chop and a mugful of saturated fat.

But a raft of studies now shows that saturated fat does not increase your likelihood of vascular or heart disease. And after many years, the results from the Women’s Health Initiative showed that women who ate higher levels of saturated fat actually had no increased risk of obesity or heart disease. What’s more, some doctors advocating high fat diets have shown individual reports of reversal of atherosclerosis.

This is not to say that LCHF diets will suit everyone.

Obviously, many people thrive on low fat diets.  But while it’s pretty much universally acknowledged that   we’re “supposed” to eat low fat diets, most Americans are overweight or obese. So it seems like low-fat diets are a prescription that most people can’t follow or won’t follow or follow and find that it just doesn’t work.

Why this is the case is a matter of both science and speculation. Some say that while giving lip-service to low-fat diets, we’ve actually increased our fat intake as our cheese and olive oil consumption have skyrocketed. But others say that overeating carbohydrates causes insulin to surge and essentially drives fat storage. This can explain why people who starve themselves can only lose minimal amounts of weight. Anyone who works with dieters—who doesn’t accuse them of lying about their food intake—will tell you that this is exactly what frustrated dieters report.

The fact that some people respond to low-fat diets and others to low carb is under active research. The current thinking is that it may be because most of us are over-producing insulin and that high levels of insulin may be causing the fat accumulation. In this case, a low-fat calorie restricted diet will be exactly the wrong prescription. On the other hand, insulin-sensitive people would account for those who respond well to low-fat diets.

At this late date, no one could possibly think this is the full story or be naïve enough to think that high-fat diets will be a panacea—and a one-size-fits-all approach might just get us into the kinds of trouble that high-carb diets have. We now know that obesity is complex — involving gut bacteria and cold viruses, hormones and sleep, culture and habit, good calories and bad calories. But it’s vital that physicians have up-to-date information to support patients as they strive to regain their health.

This is where a thoughtful set of obesity guidelines would have been helpful. Given the enormity of this problem, if there really is something that will work for even a significant portion of our people, the committee should be recommending it.  The guideline committee has the ability to get the word out: for some patients, diets high in fats may be just what the doctor should order.


Friday, February 21, 2014

Our obsession with BACON could send us to an early grave, doctors warn

The usual epidemiological nonsense

Doctors have warned that our unwavering love of bacon could be sending us to an early grave.  Figures released last week revealed that bacon sales in the U.S. rose by nearly 10 per cent last year to an all time record of $4 billion.  And research by pork supplier supplier Smithfield found that 65 per cent of Americans were behind the idea of making bacon the country's 'national food'.

But medical experts have repeatedly warned of the dangers of eating too much processed meat, as it has been linked to cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

Worse still, the legendary pairing of bacon and maple syrup is even more damaging, Harvard scientists have warned.

They say when bacon or sausages are combined with sugar, this makes our craving for the meat worse -  a phenomenon known as 'food trifecta'.

This is defined as the irresistible trio of fat, salt, and sugar, Live Science reports.

Previous research has pinpointed the exact chemical reaction that makes bacon so smell so tempting.  Called the Maillard reaction, it occurs between an amino acid and a reducing sugar when heated.

The acid and sugar react to release a huge amount of smells and flavour that make us salivate.

Another theory is that the meat has a special savoury taste called 'umami'. This is the Japanese word for the fifth basic sense of taste, after bitter, salty, sour and sweet - and is the main reason why we like foods such as cheese, bacon and soy sauce.

But experts are increasingly concerned about how much processed meat we are all eating.

Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health have found that eating processed meat, such as bacon, sausage or processed deli meats, was associated with a 42 per cent higher risk of heart disease and a 19 per cent  higher risk of Type 2 diabetes.

But they did not find any higher risk of heart disease or diabetes among individuals eating unprocessed red meat, such as from beef, pork, or lamb.

Researcher Renata Micha said: 'When we looked at average nutrients in unprocessed red and processed meats eaten in the United States, we found that they contained similar average amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol.

'In contrast, processed meats contained, on average, four times more sodium (salt) and 50 per cent more nitrate preservatives.'

This suggests that differences in salt and preservatives, rather than fats, might explain the higher risk of heart disease and diabetes seen with processed meats, but not with unprocessed red meats.'

Salt is known to increase blood pressure, a strong risk factor for heart disease.

In animal experiments, nitrate preservatives can promote hardening of the arteries and reduce glucose tolerance, effects which could increase risk of heart disease and diabetes.

To lower risk of heart attacks and diabetes, people should consider which types of meats they are eating, she said.

'Processed meats - such as bacon, salami, sausages, hot dogs and processed deli meats - may be the most important to avoid. Based on our findings, eating one serving per week or less would be associated with relatively small risk.'


Scientists discover the 'switch' that tells the brain to go sleep

If you are a fruit fly

Scientists think they have discovered the switch in the brain that tells our bodies when to go to sleep.

The discovery, made by neurologists at Oxford University, could pave the way for a treatment to combat sleep disorders such as insomnia.

The scientists think the switch works by regulating neurons, or nerve cells, in the brain.   Described as a ‘homeostat’ which can tell when someone has been awake for too many hours, the mechanism fires when the body is tired.

Professor Gero Miesenböck, whose team conducted the research, said: ‘When you’re tired, these neurons in the brain shout loud and they send you to sleep.’

The researchers demonstrated the theory on fruit flies, removing the switch to create insomniac insects.  They are convinced the same molecular system which forces neurons to fire works in the human brain.

Dr Jeffrey Donlea, who co-authored the study in the journal Neuron, added: ‘There is a similar group of neurons in a region of the human brain.

‘These neurons are also electrically active during sleep and, like the flies’ cells, are the targets of general anaesthetics that puts us to sleep.

‘It’s therefore likely that a molecular mechanism similar to the one we have discovered in flies also operates in humans.’

Researchers are now trying to find out how to activate the sleep switch is so that it can be used to treat insomnia.


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Air pollution is more harmful than SMOKING for pregnant women: Exhaust fumes could cause dangerously high blood pressure

Epidemiological rubbish. Poverty not controlled for

Heavy intake of air pollutants from car exhausts could lead to an increased risk of developing high blood pressure disorders during pregnancy, according to a recent study

Scientists at the University of Florida said the worst offending pollutants include two specific types of particulate matter; carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide.  Sulphur dioxide is emitted from power plants and industries, while most carbon monoxide is produced by car exhaust.

‘Fetal development is very sensitive to environmental factors,’ said Dr Xiaohui Xu, an assistant professor of epidemiology in the colleges of Public Health and Health Professions and Medicine.

‘That is why we wanted to do this research. Hypertension (high blood pressure), in particular, is associated with increased morbidity and mortality, causing a lot of problems for the mother and fetus, including pre-term delivery.’

Despite the serious risks to mother and baby, little is known about what specifically causes these conditions to develop in pregnant women, the researchers say.

To gain a better understanding, the researchers examined data from women who gave birth in Jacksonville, Florida, between 2004 and 2005 and environmental data from their communities.  The sample included more than 22,000 pregnant women.

The researchers gauged how much pollution the women were exposed to throughout their pregnancies to measure the levels of several pollutants.

Among the sample of women, 4.7 per cent developed a hypertensive disorder during pregnancy.

Exposure to air pollutants throughout the first two trimesters of pregnancy increased women’s risk of developing one of these conditions, Dr Xu said.

They determined this after controlling other factors that could affect a woman’s risk for developing hypertension, such as socioeconomic status, exposure to co-pollutants and smoking during pregnancy.

But scientists said they could not determine conclusively whether exposure early in the pregnancy or late in the pregnancy was more likely to increase a woman’s risk for hypertension.

‘It looks like the whole period has impacts for hypertension,’ he said.

On the basis of these findings, the researchers say more air pollution control is necessary to prevent dangerous complications in pregnant women and babies.

The researchers now plan to expand their study throughout the state and also examine other conditions that could be affected by pollution.

‘We are trying to look at several outcomes,’ Dr Xu said.

‘We also want to look at preterm delivery and low birth-weight and find out what the effects of breathing contaminated air are on fetal development.’


Statins: Is the public starting to question mass medicalisation?

By James LeFanu

The drug companies will no doubt be delighted that “experts” such as Sir Rory Collins of Oxford University now recommend everyone over the age of 50 take cholesterol-lowering statins – and that, contrary to the experience of many Telegraph readers, the evidence for their many ill-effects – muscular aches and pains, memory impairment and so on – has “been refuted”.

There are encouraging signs of public resistance to this mass medicalisation, with some doctors, it would appear, having to resort to devious methods to foist drugs on their patients. Thus two readers report quite independently that their doctors did not mention the dread word “statin”, but rather suggested they take “lipid” tablets to lower their “borderline-high” cholesterol levels.

Meanwhile, inexcusable deviousness of a different sort is apparent in the efforts of family doctors to fulfil their quota for screening older patients for dementia, with one switched-on woman in her eighties being asked on two separate visits to the surgery to memorise a name and address – and then recall it at the end of the consultation. This, as it meant nothing to her, she was unable to do. “She is intimidated by these questions,” her cousin writes, “and worried she might be losing her mind.”


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Cervical cancer could be prevented with an HIV drug: Tablet kills the virus that causes the disease

This was a very small trial in Africa so much more work will be needed to replicate the findings in the West.  White and African reactions to drugs do sometimes differ

Cervical cancer could be prevented by a commonly-used HIV drug, scientists say.  The medicine has been shown to kill-off the human papilloma virus (HPV) that leads to cervical cancer.

A husband and wife team from the University of Manchester treated women with lopinavir and found that it wiped out pre-cancerous cells in 90 per cent of trial participants with no side effects.

Human papilloma virus (HPV) is the name for a group of viruses that affect women's skin in their cervix, mouth and throat.  Almost all cases of cervical cancer are caused by the virus.  HPV is often spread during sex.

There are more than 100 different types of HPV, many of which are harmless. However, some types of HPV can disrupt the normal functioning of the cells of the cervix and can eventually trigger the onset of cancer.

Two strains of the HPV virus called HPV 16 and HPV 18 are known to be responsible for 70 per cent of all cases of cervical cancer.

These types of HPV infection have no symptoms, so many women will not realise they have the infection.

The findings, which will be presented at two conferences later this month, have been welcomed by scientists who think that in the future, women could be prescribed a drug to use at home, instead of enduring a biopsy or surgery to investigate any cervical abnormalities.

The trial took place at the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) in Nairobi, Kenya.

Ian and Lynne Hampson, from the University of Manchester, joined Dr Innocent Orora Maranga at KNH, to examine 40 women with low-grade and high-grade stage pre-cancerous disease of the cervix.

The antiviral drug lopinavir is used orally to treat HIV but it was applied directly to the cervix as a pessary in the trial.

The women were treated with one capsule of the antiviral drug twice a day for two weeks. Repeat cervical smears showed a marked improvement within one month of the treatment and after three months, there was a ‘definite response’.

Out of 23 women initially diagnosed with high-grade disease, 19 returned to normal and overall there was a positive response in 91 per cent of patients.

Photographic images of the cervix before and after treatment showed clear regression of the cervical lesions and no adverse reactions were reported.

The researchers believe their findings offer a potentially cheap and self-administered treatment that could eliminate early-stage HPV infections before they have developed into cancers.


Feminists fume about euphoric properties of semen

I was originally intrigued by this story as just another confirmation of God’s good, all natural plan for human sexuality and procreation. That liberal feminists were angry about the study’s findings came as no surprise.

But then I stepped back. Really? Can nothing good come from a man, literally?

This debacle, which involves attempting to destroy a brilliant surgeon’s career without blinking, further exposes the incestuous and harmful relationship between the homosexual and population control ideologies.

The other side is all green, natural, organic, and environmentally friendly until it comes to sex. Then, they censor information if it elevates natural heterosexual sexual relations over homosexual and unnatural (contracepted) sexual relations.

The story goes that renowned surgeon Dr. Lazar Greenfield, inventor of the Greenfield Filter (which traps blood clots), wrote a piece in the February issue of Surgery News touting the positive properties of semen. According to the Huffington Post on April 25:

Dr. Greenfield noted the therapeutic effects of semen, citing research from the Archives of Sexual Behavior which found that female college students practicing unprotected sex were less likely to suffer from depression than those whose partners used condoms (as well as those who remained abstinent).

Presumably it was the closing line that caused the controversy: “So there’s a deeper bond between men and women than St. Valentine would have suspected, and now we know there’s a better gift for that day than chocolates.”

The attempt at Jackie Mason-humor apparently didn’t sit well in certain quarters. Dr. Greenfield resigned as editor of the Surgery News and gave up his stewardship of ACS after learning that his article had spurred threats of protests from outside women’s groups….

Dr. Greenfield explained:

The editorial was a review of what I thought was some fascinating new findings related to semen, and the way in which nature is trying to promote a stronger bond between men and women. It impressed me. It seemed as though it was a gift from nature. And so that was the reason for my lighthearted comments.

Greenfield’s column has been retracted and scrubbed but can still be read here. I’m guessing his comparison of menstrual synchronization between lesbian and heterero cohabitators, in which he found the former wanting, also hurt him.

The study Greenfield cited found, according to Scientific American:

In fact, semen has a very complicated chemical profile, containing over 50 different compounds (including hormones, neurotransmitters, endorphins and immunosuppressants) each with a special function and occurring in different concentrations within the seminal plasma.

Perhaps the most striking of these compounds is the bundle of mood-enhancing chemicals in semen. There is good in this goo. Such anxiolytic chemicals include, but are by no means limited to, cortisol (known to increase affection), estrone (which elevates mood), prolactin (a natural antidepressant), oxytocin (also elevates mood), thyrotropin-releasing hormone (another antidepressant), melatonin (a sleep-inducing agent) and even serotonin (perhaps the most well-known antidepressant neurotransmitter)….

The most significant findings from this 2002 study… were these: even after adjusting for frequency of sexual intercourse, women who engaged in sex and “never” used condoms showed significantly fewer depressive symptoms than did those who “usually” or “always” used condoms.

Add to that, according to the same article:

Now, medical professionals have known for a very long time that the vagina is an ideal route for drug delivery. The reason for this is that the vagina is surrounded by an impressive vascular network. Arteries, blood vessels, and lymphatic vessels abound, and – unlike some other routes of drug administration – chemicals that are absorbed through the vaginal walls have an almost direct line to the body’s peripheral circulation system.

Oh, and there’s also sperm in there, the DNA-bearing courier. Sperm is less than 3% the total volume of semen. But as it turns out, the bath water is nearly as important as the baby.

This is all such interesting, helpful information, right? No. Greenfield’s playful Valentine’s Day column spotlighting the study’s findings was greeted by such outrage from feminist groups that, along with his other punishments, Greenfield was forced to resign as president of the American College of Surgeons on the day he was to assume the position, which they threatened to protest.

You see, lesbians hate the thought of better sex between heteros.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Type 2 diabetes may NOT be caused by suddenly piling on the pounds: Most patients 'have been overweight for years'

I have been challenging this supposed causal link for years

Type 2 diabetes might not be caused by piling on the pounds, new research suggests.  Researchers discovered people who have been of a stable, but excessive, weight for many years are more likely to develop the condition than those who have recently gained a lot of weight.

As a result, they say the best way to reduce the number of cases of diabetes could be to focus on small weight reductions for the whole population rather than on major weight loss programmes for a few high-risk individuals.

Researchers at the Steno Diabetes Centre in Gentofte, Denmark, studied data from 6,705 participants of the Whitehall II cohort – a group of London-based civil servants who have been followed for more than 10 years.  All of the volunteers were free of diabetes when the study started but after 10 years, 645 had been diagnosed with the disease.

The researchers looked back at recordings of their BMI during the 10 years of the study.

They discovered that the vast majority of those who had been diagnosed with diabetes – 606 people – had been overweight throughout the study.  These people’s weight, however, had been stable.

Only 15 of the people who developed diabetes had gained weight continuously in the years before their diagnosis and just 26 were obese for the entire time they participated in the study.

The researchers admit that to confirm the findings they would have to study more diverse groups of people.  However, they say their research gives an indication of how best to identify people at risk of diabetes.

The authors wrote: ‘Strategies focusing on small weight reductions for the entire population may be more beneficial than predominantly focusing on weight loss for high-risk individuals.’


The remarkable power of the placebo: Patients who had FAKE surgery for a broken back recovered just as well, documentary reveals

The power of suggestion has long been known to be enormous

We’ve all heard of placebos. They’re dummy pills. They can’t do anything real. After all, there’s nothing in them.  At least, that’s what we thought.

But in recent years, evidence has built up to suggest that placebos can be highly effective – particularly in treating pain, depression, and even alleviating some of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

And it isn’t just dummy pills that seem to be able to work: you could get life-changing improvements from a pretend potion that’s actually just water; or perhaps fake acupuncture with needles that don’t even puncture your skin.

The key is simply that you think it might help you.

But when it comes to placebos, it doesn’t get much more dramatic than what’s been called sham surgery – as Dr David Kallmes discovered a few years ago.

He’s a successful radiologist at the Mayo Clinic, one of the world’s leading hospitals – it’s where the Presidents of the United States often get treated.

For the past 15 years, he’s been fixing broken backs by injecting them with a special kind of medical cement.

Dr Kallmes regularly performed the procedure – called vertebroplasty – and found it hugely effective.

'We saw terrific results from the procedure, really amazing results,' he told me.

However, there were some questions as to exactly what was going on – because some people seemed to get better even when the operations went horribly wrong.

We’ve all heard of those calamitous procedures where someone has the wrong leg amputated. Well occasionally, people in need of vertebroplasty had the wrong vertebra filled with cement.

And yet it still worked.

As Dr Kallmes rather delicately puts it: 'There was some reason to suspect that there were numerous factors at play in the apparent effectiveness of the cement'.

He decided to do something very unusual – something that most doctors would be incredibly nervous about, but something that a good scientist can’t resist: he decided to conduct an experiment to see whether vertebroplasty was any more effective than a placebo.

He designed a trial in which some patients would be given genuine vertebroplasty, and some would be given a placebo.

But in this case the placebo couldn’t be a dummy pill, it would have to be a fake operation.

It was important that the 130 patients on the trial didn’t know whether they were having the real thing or the placebo.

This meant that Dr Kallmes had to develop an elaborate ruse to ensure that patients wouldn’t work out which group they were in.

All patients were prepared for their ‘operation’ in the same way; they were wheeled into theatre, and given a local anaesthetic in their back.

It was only at that stage that it was decided whether or not they’d have the placebo or the vertebroplasty, and it was a computer that randomly decided their future.

Even the doctors didn’t yet know whether they were about to perform a real procedure, or whether they’d just be pretending.

'In both cases,' says Kallmes, 'No matter how they were randomised [i.e. which operation they were having, the real or the fake], we then opened the cement, which has a very strong odour like nail polish remover, to really simulate it for everybody in the room.'

Half the patients then received the real operation; the other half experienced theatre, but not of the operating kind.

Dr Kallmes explains: 'If they were randomised to placebo, we had a script that we followed, we pressed on the back and said okay ma’am, the cement is going in now, everything’s going fine, things are going well, a few more minutes here, okay we're all done.'

It almost sounds like a child’s game of doctors and nurses.

For Bonnie Anderson, one of the patients on the trial, it would have seemed impossible that play-acting could give her the relief she needed.

After slipping in her kitchen, she’d cracked a vertebra and was in immense pain, barely able to move. 'I couldn’t stand up straight, I’d have to hold onto something. The pain was just very, very severe,' she said.

What’s more, Bonnie had actually had a real vertebroplasty the year before, when a different vertebra had fractured. She knew what to expect from the procedure. It wouldn’t be easy to fool her.

And yet for Bonnie, the effectiveness of the placebo – though she didn’t know that’s what it was – was clear. 'Within a week….I was able to play golf, I took it a little easy, but I was able to play golf almost every day.'

At 76 years old, as she was at the time of the trial, a game of golf every day suggests a fairly effective operation…

In fact, Bonnie noticed no difference in pain relief between the real thing, and the placebo.

And she wasn’t the only one for whom the pretend procedure was so effective. As Dr Kallmes sums up: 'There was no statistically significant difference in degree of pain relief between the patients who underwent vertebroplasty and placebo.

'And more importantly, there was no statistically significant difference in improvement in function between the patients who underwent vertebroplasty and placebo.'

To be clear, there’s no suggestion that the pretend operation was healing people’s broken bones.

The assumption is that it worked because it relieved patients of their pain long enough for the bone to then heal naturally.

Nonetheless, the results shocked the medical community – after all, doctors around the world had performed vertebroplasties on over a million people.

Coincidentally, at the same time as Dr Kallmes was doing his trial in the U.S., another scientist was doing a similar study in Australia. Once again, vertebroplasty failed to do better than a placebo.

Normally, if a pill or a procedure doesn’t beat a placebo, we’d assume that it doesn’t work – after all, it’s no better than a dummy pill, or a pretend procedure.

The difficulty here is that it wasn’t the case that neither vertebroplasty nor the placebo worked; rather, they both worked.

Patients who experienced vertebroplasty or the placebo both got better than if they’d had no treatment.

As Kallmes says, 'the drastic diminution in pain at 24 hours in our study suggests that the procedures had immediate benefit.

'We published the three-day outcomes, which also show marked decrease in pain.' That steep drop wouldn’t be expected if the patients had just been left to heal naturally.

The fact that a pretend procedure is considerably more useful than doing nothing at all has led to an interesting situation for Dr Kallmes and his colleagues: insurance companies are now reluctant to pay for the cost of a vertebroplasty – a few thousand dollars is a lot of money for a medical procedure that’s no more effective than something an actor could do.

And yet whether its effects are due to the cement or to the placebo effect, Dr Kallmes knows that vertebroplasty is still useful.

The fact is, there aren’t really any other options: he can’t perform the pretend procedures outside of the trial as it would be immoral to lie to patients and trick them about the treatment they’re receiving.

As Dr Kallmes acknowledges, 'We don’t have much else to offer these patients.'

And so even though he found it to be no more use than a pretend procedure, Dr Kallmes, is still performing vertebroplasties.

Amazingly, it isn’t the only surgical procedure that’s been found to be no more effective than a placebo.

A well-reviewed Finnish study recently found that one of the world’s most common orthopaedic operations – arthroscopic partial meniscectomy of the knee – is no more effective than ‘sham surgery’.

Surprising though this is, there’s certainly no suggestion that the benefits of many other surgeries might be entirely due to the placebo effect. No one would argue that a pretend operation could remove a tumour, for instance.

But doctors and scientists are starting to become more aware of the power of the placebo effect – particularly in surgery, where our hopes and expectations of a dramatic recovery are at their highest.

There’s no doubt that there’s still an enormous amount we don’t know about placebos and how they work. Why do some people respond so well, and others not at all? Do our genes play a role? What are the exact mechanisms through which placebos work?

But at least now, instead of seeing a placebo effect as a statistical tool to develop new drugs and treatments, scientists are starting to investigate how placebos work.

And the more we find out, the better our chance of harnessing their power, and making the most of our bodies’ abilities to heal themselves.


Monday, February 17, 2014

West Virginia chemical spill: We have enough information to manage the risk

In a prior post, I addressed the background related to the recent chemical spill that contaminated drinking water in West Virginia, and I highlighted why more regulation would not do much good. But we continue to hear that we need more regulation because we don’t have enough information about this chemical and thousands of others. Such claims divert our attention from the real issue: failure to properly implement the many emergency planning laws and programs on the books.

In any case, the claim is wrong. There is enough information about this chemical to manage the risks, and keep them low. But public officials did not effectively communicate the fact that it is the dose that makes the poison. Public exposure to the chemical mixture involved in this spill — crude MCHM — is too low to pose any long-term health risks, and worker exposure is managed by proper work practices regulated under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA). The only time the public experiences any exposure to this chemical — which is designed for industrial use only — is in the case of spills.

In this situation, public exposure was short-term, temporary, and quickly managed. Health effects involved temporary skin and eye irritations. Although official numbers are not yet available, Ken Ward of The Charleston Gazette reported that public officials said that the number of individuals affected was between 450 and 500 cases. If that is true, the spill resulted in short-term health effects among 0.17 percent of the population. There are likely no significant long-term risks from these exposures since health effects like cancer require relatively high, long-term exposures. It is also worth noting that this chemical has been used safely for decades without any evidence of serious health effects.

This perspective does not diminish the fact that thousands of people were inconvenienced and frightened and that many small businesses suffered adverse impacts. Unfortunately, poor communications from public health officials and politicians increased fear and made things worse.

Still the news stories focused on lack of information. Some said that the Material Data Safety Sheet (MSDS), which employers must provide to workers on how handle chemicals per OSHA regulations, for crude MCHM is grossly inadequate. Supposedly, the data sheet lacked necessary details about all the potential risks, particularly the potential long-term risks and complete toxicological data that consumers and workers need. In reality, the MSDS contained enough information to ensure proper and safe handling of the chemical, which is what it is designed to do. It is inappropriate to use this document as “evidence” that we do not know enough about this chemical, because the MSDS is not designed to contain all that information. Rather, it is designed to communicate imminent hazards to workers and provide guidelines for chemical handing to minimize both short- and long-term health risks to workers.

The MSDS covering the chemicals in the crude MCHM mixture does in fact provide information about the hazards and clear guidelines on the risks to workers and methods to control them, including controlling exposure to prevent any problems. It is true that some lines in at least one version (there are several formats for these forms) of the MSDS say, “no data available,” but that does not mean no data exists about the mixture’s components or that we need to worry when exposure is controlled according to the guidelines in the data sheet.

And despite claims to the contrary, there is plenty of toxicological data to indicate that crude MHCM is relatively low risk. The manufacturer, Eastman Chemical, voluntarily submitted 13 studies on crude MCHM during the 1990s to the EPA. The company explains on its website that it did not originally release this data to the public because it was proprietary and it did not want to provide it to competitors for free. Eastman shared this data with public officials and in fact had communicated and explained it all to the local officials immediately when they were contacted after the release was discovered.

After the spill, Eastman made all of these studies publicly available on its website, perhaps because media hype wrongly suggested the company had done little to no research. However, this information is very technical and not particularly helpful to consumers anyway. It was always available to regulators who are equipped to understand and use it. It is worth noting that at any point in time, the EPA could have demanded more information on crude MCHM under the Toxic Substances Control Act, but it did not bother perhaps because of its relatively low risk and because it is only used inside industrial operations.

The federal government has also conducted research on the main chemical in the mixture, 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol, which makes up 68 to 89 percent of the mixture. The U.S. National Library of Medicine lists the results of 86 tests, of which 78 found no significant toxicological effects on animal test subjects and the rest were inconclusive, underscoring the relatively low risk associated with this chemical. A summary of toxicological data is also available on the Library of Medicine’s Hazardous Substances Data Bank. This information may be technical and hard to understand for the average person, but that does not mean it doesn’t exist and isn’t available to the people who understand it and need it to protect the rest of us.


Number of chemicals linked to problems such as autism DOUBLES in just seven years

Epidemiological nonsense

The number of industrial chemicals known to trigger brain development problems like autism has doubled in just seven years, experts warned today.

A new study suggests toxic chemicals may be triggering increases in neurological disabilities among children, including autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and dyslexia.

The researchers warn that chemical safety checks need to be tightened up around the world to protect our vulnerable youngsters from a 'silent epidemic' of brain disorders.

Their work also found that the list of chemicals known to damage the human brain but not regulated to safeguard children had also risen from 202 to 214.  These substances are found in everyday items including food, clothing, furniture and toys.

'The greatest concern is the large numbers of children who are affected by toxic damage to brain development in the absence of a formal diagnosis,' said Dr Philippe Grandjean, of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.  'They suffer reduced attention span, delayed development, and poor school performance.   'Industrial chemicals are now emerging as likely causes.'

He and his co-authors are calling for universal legal requirements forcing manufacturers to prove that all existing and new industrial chemicals are non-toxic before they reach the market place.

In the EU, the Reach (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) regulations already impose such rules.

But without them being applied globally, the world faces a 'pandemic of neurodevelopmental toxicity', warned Dr Grandjean.

'Current chemical regulations are woefully inadequate to safeguard children whose developing brains are uniquely vulnerable to toxic chemicals in the environment,' Dr Grandjean pointed out.

Neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia and cerebral palsy affect one in six children worldwide.

Growing evidence strongly links these conditions to childhood exposure to hazardous chemicals such as mercury, lead, solvents and pesticides, say the scientists writing in the journal The Lancet Neurology.

Dr Grandjean and co-author Dr Philip Landrigan from Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York believe this is only the tip of the iceberg.

The vast majority of the more than 80,000 industrial chemicals in widespread use in the US have never been tested for their toxic effects on the developing foetus or child, they argue.

'The only way to reduce toxic contamination is to ensure mandatory developmental neurotoxicity testing of existing and new chemicals before they come into the marketplace', said Dr Landrigan.

'Such a precautionary approach would mean that early indications of a potentially serious toxic effect would lead to strong regulations, which could be relaxed should subsequent evidence show less harm.'

A new international prevention strategy is needed that places the burden of responsibility on chemical producers rather than governments, say the experts.

The study outlines possible links between these newly recognised neurotoxicants and negative health effects on children.

Manganese is associated with diminished intellectual function and impaired motor skills, while solvents are linked to hyperactivity and aggressive behaviour and certain types of pesticides may cause cognitive delays.

They conclude: 'The total number of neurotoxic substances now recognised almost certainly represents an underestimate of the true number of developmental neurotoxicants that have been released into the global environment.

'Our very great concern is that children worldwide are being exposed to unrecognised toxic chemicals that are silently eroding intelligence, disrupting behaviours, truncating future achievements, and damaging societies, perhaps most seriously in developing countries.'

But Prof Andy Smith, senior scientist at the Medical Research Council Toxicology Unit in Leicester, advised caution over the U.S. study's shocking findings.

'The epidemiological studies that this review looked at have reported links between toxicity of synthetic chemicals and brain development differences.

'However, these studies mostly identify associations rather than causal relationships. As usual thousands of chemicals of "natural" source are not considered.

'The implication that present exposure to minute levels of many thousands of synthetic chemicals, even as mixtures, are strong drivers of highly complex neurological disorders and intelligence should be considered with reservation.'