Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Statins could help to fight infections

This is naive rubbish. The side effects of statins are so severe that you have to be pretty robust to stay on them. All we are seeing below is that robust people get fewer illnesses

Statins have been found to cut death from infections that cause illnesses such as pneumonia by a third, which could lead to even more people being prescribed the so–called wonder drugs. Up to seven million people in Britain take the cholesterol–lowering medication, which can save lives by reducing the chances of suffering a heart attack or stroke.

But "unexpected" findings from British researchers suggest that statins' principal long–term benefit is stopping deaths from infections and respiratory illness.

It could mean that patients at higher risk of developing pneumonia could also be prescribed the drugs, despite a fear that too many "worried well" already take statins, which cost the NHS about £500million a year. A study in The Lancet last month suggested some people taking the drugs were unlikely to gain any benefit.

Prof Peter Sever, from Imperial College London's international centre for circulatory health, said of the latest findings: "This result is very unexpected. The benefits of statins for preventing heart attacks and strokes are well established, but after long–term follow–up the most significant effects seem to be on deaths from other causes."

There was now "an emerging evidence base for statins protecting against infections", said Prof Sever, who presented the results yesterday at the annual congress of the European Society of Cardiology in Paris. A paper has also been published in the European Heart Journal.

He said: "We know that if you are on a statin and you get pneumonia, you are less likely to die. "There are about 15 observational studies that show statins protect you against worsening infection and death from infection." Prof Sever said the statins appeared to lessen the production of "toxic" inflammatory agents in the blood, which are stimulated by infections.

Prof Sever said: "This study is going to make people think more about the non–cardiovascular benefits of statins."

Prof Sever's team analysed the death certificates of almost 1,000 people. They were among 10,000 volunteers with high blood pressure who had originally enrolled in the Anglo–Scandinavian Cardiac Outcomes Trial (Ascot) to test a type of statin, called atorvastatin.

They found that, 11 years after the Ascot trial started, deaths from infections and respiratory problems were 36 per cent lower in those originally given the statin, compared with those given a placebo.

Since the Ascot trial started, there were 37 deaths from infections and respiratory illness in the atorvastatin group, compared with 56 in the control group. Prof Sever said of these differences: "The numbers are large. It's a very robust study."

There was no difference in death rates from cancer.

Prof Sever, whose previous work helped formulate NHS guidelines for statin use, cautioned against widening statin prescription based on a single study. He said: "One swallow does not make a summer."

Studies have shown that statins can cause side effects such as muscle weakness, and liver and kidney problems.

Others also questioned the validity of the data, noting the trial was not designed to look at causes of death other than from cardiovascular disease. Guy De Backer, from Ghent University in Belgium, said: "I want to remain cautious. We all know that these findings can occur by chance alone. They are interesting but they don't stand on their own."

Those given the statin at the start of the Ascot trial were 14 per cent less likely to die during that period. The trial was stopped after three years since atorvastatin had been shown to reduce the chance of a non–fatal heart attack and death from heart disease by 36 per cent.

Prof Sever said the lower rate of deaths from infections and respiratory illness over the 11–year period since the trial began was a "carry over" effect from being given atorvastatin at the start. Prof Sever's study was funded by Pfizer, which makes atorvastatin. However, the academic noted: "I have no reason to believe that atorvastatin is unique in these non–cardiovascular actions."

Atorvastatin, which currently costs £26 per patient per month compared with £2 for a "generic" drug, is also due to come off patent soon.


Free-range eggs 'are no healthier than battery ones' as cholesterol and nutrient levels 'identical'

This is to an extent misconceived. The "free range" people are motivated mainly by anti-cruelty ideas as far as I know

Their richly coloured yolks certainly make them more appealing to the eye and have led some to believe they are more nutritious. But free-range eggs are no better for us than the battery farmed alternative, scientists have found.

It means that while many reasons may remain for buying free-range – such as the welfare of the hens – health benefits are not among them. Researchers discovered that the two types of eggs contained almost identical levels of vitamins and cholesterol.

Free-range hens are allowed to roam freely, while battery hens are confined to cramped cages in large warehouses.

Poultry expert Dr Kenneth Anderson compared the nutritional content of 500 eggs produced by the different methods over two years. The samples were collected on three occasions and sent to laboratories which analysed the levels of certain vitamins and fats.

The U.S. team found that although the yolks of free-range eggs were darker, they were not actually healthier. Levels of vitamin A, needed for healthy skin and bones, and vitamin E, which is essential for protecting the body's cells, were the same.

Dr Anderson also found no difference in the levels of cholesterol, which can clog arteries to cause heart attacks and strokes.

Writing in the journal Poultry Science, Dr Anderson, of North Carolina State University, concluded that 'a significant nutritional advantage of eggs produced by chickens housed on range versus in cages could not be established'. He said: 'The key takeaway from this research is that an egg, no matter where it's produced, is a very nutritious product.

'Eggs from a range production environment did have higher levels of total fat than eggs produced by caged hens, but they did not have higher levels of cholesterol.'

The research also found that both types of egg contained less cholesterol than previously thought.

Last year another study claimed that free-range eggs could in fact be less healthy than those from battery hens as they contained far more pollution. Scientists in Taiwan found levels of potentially toxic substances were up to eight times higher.

They said that up to 17 per cent of free-range eggs contained chemicals linked to these substances, which contribute to a range of health issues in humans including cancer and fertility problems.

Eggs have fallen out of favour in recent decades partly as a result of health warnings over high levels of cholesterol and links to heart disease.

But earlier this year a team from Surrey University claimed that eggs helped dieters to lose weight as they made them feel fuller for longer.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Don’t just plod if you want a longer life, say heart experts

OK: Those who cycled fast for between half an hour and an hour a day were likely to live longest. But why? Did they live longer because of the cycling or were they more robust to start with? It really amazes and saddens me to see how sure medical researchers are about the direction of causation. They "just know".

Short stints of intense exercise are better for the heart than just plodding along, according to a study that suggests turning it up a gear could add an extra five years to someone’s life.

The Danish research adds to evidence that moderate exertion, while clearly beneficial, might not be all that is needed to give the best level of protection against cardiovascular disease.

Academics who monitored the health of 5,000 people in Copenhagen who cycled regularly for 20 years, found that most benefit was gained from pedalling intensively for short periods.

Men who said they rode fast could expect to live 5.3 years longer than those who said they rode slowly, while for such women the figure was 3.9 years. Men who believed they rode at an average speed could expect another 2.9 years of life, and such women 2.2 years.

Dr Peter Schnohr, from Bispebjerg University Hospital, told the annual meeting of the European Society of Cardiology in Paris: “It is the intensity, not the duration, of cycling that is of the greatest importance in relation to all forms of mortality, or longevity, and it is even more pronounced for coronary heart disease.”

The analysis, based on data from the Copenhagen City Heart Study, suggested those who cycled fast for between half an hour and an hour a day were likely to live longest.

Relative to slow cyclists, they had a 56 per cent lower risk of dying overall during the study period, which included a 74 per cent lower risk of dying from coronary heart disease.

The study was based on people without health problems such as high blood pressure or diabetes, aged 20 to 90.

Dr Schnohr argued that governments should advise people to take activity in more vigorous bursts as well as taking regular moderate exercise.

However, the research met with caution from Prof Peter Weissberg, medical director at the British Heart Foundation.

He warned that it could be dangerous for inactive people to simply get up and start doing hard exercise. “I would hate the message to get out in the UK that people who are not used to cycling should start doing it short and sharp,” he said.

He said it was interesting in relation to people who already cycled but most people in Britain were not that active. “Current guidelines say that you’ve got to do sufficient exercise to get your heart rate up and get slightly breathless,” he added.


Could New Drug Cure Nearly Any Viral Infection?

Technology Shows Promise Against Common Cold, Influenza and Other Ailments, Researchers Say

Most bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics such as penicillin, discovered decades ago. However, such drugs are useless against viral infections, including influenza, the common cold, and deadly hemorrhagic fevers such as Ebola.

Now, in a development that could transform how viral infections are treated, a team of researchers at MIT's Lincoln Laboratory has designed a drug that can identify cells that have been infected by any type of virus, then kill those cells to terminate the infection.

In a paper published July 27 in the journal PLoS ONE, the researchers tested their drug against 15 viruses, and found it was effective against all of them -- including rhinoviruses that cause the common cold, H1N1 influenza, a stomach virus, a polio virus, dengue fever and several other types of hemorrhagic fever.

The drug works by targeting a type of RNA produced only in cells that have been infected by viruses. "In theory, it should work against all viruses," says Todd Rider, a senior staff scientist in Lincoln Laboratory's Chemical, Biological, and Nanoscale Technologies Group who invented the new technology.

Because the technology is so broad-spectrum, it could potentially also be used to combat outbreaks of new viruses, such as the 2003 SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak, Rider says.

Rider had the idea to try developing a broad-spectrum antiviral therapy about 11 years ago, after inventing CANARY (Cellular Analysis and Notification of Antigen Risks and Yields), a biosensor that can rapidly identify pathogens. "If you detect a pathogenic bacterium in the environment, there is probably an antibiotic that could be used to treat someone exposed to that, but I realized there are very few treatments out there for viruses," he says.

There are a handful of drugs that combat specific viruses, such as the protease inhibitors used to control HIV infection, but these are relatively few in number and susceptible to viral resistance.

Rider drew inspiration for his therapeutic agents, dubbed DRACOs (Double-stranded RNA Activated Caspase Oligomerizers), from living cells' own defense systems.

When viruses infect a cell, they take over its cellular machinery for their own purpose -- that is, creating more copies of the virus. During this process, the viruses create long strings of double-stranded RNA (dsRNA), which is not found in human or other animal cells.

As part of their natural defenses against viral infection, human cells have proteins that latch onto dsRNA, setting off a cascade of reactions that prevents the virus from replicating itself. However, many viruses can outsmart that system by blocking one of the steps further down the cascade.

Rider had the idea to combine a dsRNA-binding protein with another protein that induces cells to undergo apoptosis (programmed cell suicide) -- launched, for example, when a cell determines it is en route to becoming cancerous. Therefore, when one end of the DRACO binds to dsRNA, it signals the other end of the DRACO to initiate cell suicide.

Combining those two elements is a "great idea" and a very novel approach, says Karla Kirkegaard, professor of microbiology and immunology at Stanford University. "Viruses are pretty good at developing resistance to things we try against them, but in this case, it's hard to think of a simple pathway to drug resistance," she says.

Each DRACO also includes a "delivery tag," taken from naturally occurring proteins, that allows it to cross cell membranes and enter any human or animal cell. However, if no dsRNA is present, DRACO leaves the cell unharmed.

Most of the tests reported in this study were done in human and animal cells cultured in the lab, but the researchers also tested DRACO in mice infected with the H1N1 influenza virus. When mice were treated with DRACO, they were completely cured of the infection. The tests also showed that DRACO itself is not toxic to mice.

The researchers are now testing DRACO against more viruses in mice and beginning to get promising results. Rider says he hopes to license the technology for trials in larger animals and for eventual human clinical trials.

This work is funded by a grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the New England Regional Center of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases, with previous funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Defense Threat Reduction Agency, and Director of Defense Research & Engineering (now the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering)


Monday, August 29, 2011

More wishful thinking about chocolate

The sentence highlighted in red below makes the whole thing a bit of a laugh

It's the news that chocoholics have been waiting for - a bar of the dark stuff is officially good for your health. It has long been believed that a small amount of cocoa-rich dark chocolate can be beneficial because of its high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

But a major study has now suggested that eating large amounts of chocolate could also be associated with a one-third reduction in the risk of developing heart disease. It backs up the results of earlier studies that generally agree on a potential positive link between eating chocolate and heart health.

Dr Oscar Franco, from the University of Cambridge, carried out a large scale review of the existing evidence to see the effects of eating chocolate on heart attacks and strokes. He analysed the results of seven studies, which had involved more than 100,000 people with and without existing heart disease.

For each study, he compared the group with the highest chocolate consumption against the group with the lowest. Differences in study design and quality were also taken into account to minimise bias.

Five studies reported a beneficial link between higher levels of chocolate consumption and the risk of cardiovascular events. They found that the 'highest levels of chocolate consumption were associated with a 37 per cent reduction in cardiovascular disease and a 29 per cent reduction in stroke compared with lowest levels'.

No significant reduction was found in relation to heart failure.

The studies did not differentiate between dark or milk chocolate and included consumption of chocolate bars, drinks, biscuits and desserts. But despite the findings, he said they should be taken 'with caution', and will now look at whether other factors could explain the positive effects.

He also advised people to be careful which chocolate they chose to eat. This was because, in particular, commercially available chocolate is high in calories - around 500 calories for every 100 grams - and eating too much of it could lead to weight gain and put eaters at risk of diabetes and heart disease.

The findings, published in the British Medical Journal, are due to be presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Paris today.

The World Health Organisation predicts that by 2030, nearly 23.6 million people will die from heart disease.


Food hysteria

Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain has turned his famously sharp tongue against his fellow celebrity chefs. In an interview in this week’s TV Guide, Bourdain calls Paula Deen “the worst, most dangerous person to America” for her artery-clogging style of cooking.

“She revels in unholy connections with evil corporations, and she’s proud of the fact that her food is f--king bad for you,” Bourdain said of the Food Network star, who is famous for her butter-heavy recipes.

“I would think twice before telling an already obese nation that it is OK to eat food that is killing us,” Bourdain said of Deen and her kitchen creations.

Moving on, Bourdain levels some scathing criticism on Food Network chef-turned-Oprah-wannabe Rachael Ray. “Does she even cook anymore?” Bourdain asked rhetorically. “I don’t know why she bothers,” Bourdain said. “To her credit, she never said she was good at it. I feel bad that she still feels compelled to cook.”

Bourdain says the downside of traveling around the world eating amazing food for his show “No Reservations” is that he doesn’t get to see his wife and kid.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

'Cancer risk' of perfumed products that go in your tumble-dryer as chemicals are found in air from vents

This ignores the basic truth that the toxicity is in the dose. You could analyse the air from almost any household and find "toxins" in it

Scented laundry products could be releasing cancer-causing chemicals when clothes are tumble-dried, research suggests.

A cocktail of chemicals was found in air emitted through vents during cycles when using both a popular liquid detergent and perfumed dryer sheets.

Although the research was carried out in the U.S., the author of the report is convinced the same problem occurs in British homes, potentially causing headaches, asthma attacks and even seizures.

The research was carried out by Professor Anne Steinemann, an expert on the effects of pollution at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Researchers analysed the fumes emitted from tumble dryers when cycles were run with the detergent and scented dryer sheets. Analysis of the captured gases found more than 25 volatile organic compounds, including seven hazardous air pollutants, coming out of the vents. Of those, two chemicals – acetaldehyde and benzene – are classified by the US Environmental Protection Agency as carcinogens.

The study also found similar chemicals among another 25 fragranced products tested, and all products emitted at least one chemical classified as hazardous.

The findings, published in the journal Air Quality, Atmosphere and Health, raise worrying questions about the safety of perfumed consumer products.

Professor Steinemann said the research showed that while public concern tends to focus on pollution from cars and industry, risks in the home should not be forgotten.

And, as the research suggests, this problem may not be confined to American homes. ‘The detergent we used is widely used in Britain, so I have every reason to believe the situation there will be very similar,’ Professor Steinemann said.

‘In addition, I have been contacted by a number of people in Britain who say they suffer sickness or headaches when they are standing close to tumble dryer vents.’


The personality diet: Knowing your weaknesses is key to weight loss, says neuroscientist

The theory sounds vaguely plausible but does it work in practice? Theories are a dime a dozen. Finding something that works is a rarity

According to clinical neuroscientist Daniel Amen, slimmers are wasting time and energy trying diet plans which will simply never work - because they are not genetically capable of sticking to them. So instead of heading straight to the gym, he says, they should start with an exercise in self-awareness - identifying their weaknesses and working out what makes them want to eat.

In a controversial new book published in the U.S., Dr Amen defines five categories of overeater: compulsive overeaters, impulsive overeaters, compulsive-impulsive overeaters, sad or emotional overeaters and anxious overeaters. He goes on to argue that his research shows each group must avoid certain foods - and eat more of others - in order to lose weight.

He writes: ‘We looked at the brains of our overweight patients and discovered there was not one brain pattern associated with being overweight: there were at least five different types. ‘This is exactly the reason why most diets don’t work. They take a one-size-fits-all approach.’

Compulsive eaters, he argues, ‘tend to get stuck on thoughts of food’. For these types, high-protein diets are said to be unhelpful, because these foods are thought to increase focus - which compulsive types already have plenty of. Instead, Dr Amen suggests they eat more complex carbohydrates, which help the body produce more serotonin, improving mood.

But serotonin-boosting carbohydrates are, he argues, disastrous for impulsive sorts because they simply lower their control further.

Instead, these types should eat foods such as chicken and oats, which raise levels of dopamine in the brain and boost concentration.

For compulsive-impulsive eaters, Dr Amen suggests focusing on exercise, while emotional types should increase the amounts of omega-3 fatty acids they consume, which help calm the body by reducing inflammation.

Anxious overeaters, who use food ‘to medicate their feelings of tension, nervousness and fear’, should avoid alcohol and caffeine, he argues, and choose a diet high in the amino acid glutamine, which is in lentils, broccoli and nuts.

Dr Amen’s claims have, however, been met with scepticism. Dietician Evelyn Toner said: ‘I agree that a lot of problems with weight are down to personality. There are comfort eaters, bingers or, on the other hand, people who turn away from food completely when they are stressed. ‘But it is about changing behaviour and habits rather than specific foods... a binge eater will overeat no matter what food it is.’

Dietician Priya Tew added: ‘People could read this book and say: “It’s my personality. That’s why I’m not losing weight.” My concern is it could be used as an excuse.’


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Heart disease risk inherited through genes, not behaviour

Amazing: They have just shown that lifestyle is irrelevant but still cannot help themseves from preaching the lifestyle gospel. There's a lot of religion in all the "sciences" as far as I can see. These guys are just as much men of faith as any Christian

Parents increase their child's risk of coronary heart disease through their genes and not through the family's diet or lifestyle, a new study shows.

Children born to parents with CHD are 40 to 60 per cent more likely to develop the condition themselves, but growing up in an unhealthy household is of little importance.

Although children of people who suffer from the condition were already known to be at increased risk, it was not previously clear whether this was due to genetics or because children of unhealthy parents adopt similar lifestyles.

But a study of more than 80,000 men and women who were adopted as children showed that susceptibility to the disease is transmitted in the womb and not in the home.

Smoking, eating unhealthy food and avoiding exercise still play a major role in an individual's chance of developing CHD, doctors said, but the risk that is passed down through families is based on DNA rather than behaviour.

Researchers at Lund University in Sweden, where nearly all residents are registered on a national health care database, compared the medical records of adoptees to both their biological and adoptive parents.

They found that adoptees who had at least one biological parent with CHD had up to 60 per cent more chance of suffering the disease themselves, compared with a control group.

In contrast, growing up in a home with adoptive parents who suffered from CHD resulted in no additional risk for the child, even if both parents had the disease.

Prof Kristina Sundquist, who led the study, said it showed that inherited risk of CHD is genetic and parents' lifestyles are not to blame for passing it on to their children.

She said: "Of course it is always important to think about your own lifestyle but this study shows you cannot blame families for passing on poor lifestyles to their children."

Prof Peter Weissberg, medical director of the BHF, said: "This study tells us that genes are very important but no matter what genes you have, you still need to pay attention to your lifestyle."


Antidepressants 'cut bowel and brain cancer risk'

This is interesting but it would be incautious to assume that what works with depressed people will work with normals.

Furthermore, it can reasonably be assumed that depressed people are (for instance) less active and it may in some way be the lower level of activity (or other factors associated with depression) that produced the effect rather than the medication

A commonly-prescribed type of antidepressant cuts the risk of bowel cancer by up to a fifth, according to a study of 93,000 people.

Tricyclic antidepressants also reduce the risk of glioma - the most common type of brain cancer - by up to two-thirds, found the study by academics at three British universities. Taking larger doses for longer increases the preventative effect, the researchers found.

Although the results, based on data from the General Practice Research Database, are startling, it is highly unlikely such drugs would be widely prescribed to those without mental health problems because of their side-effects. Many are sedatives, for example.

Nevertheless, the academics are excited because they say people at a genetically higher risk of the two types of cancer could be prescribed them.

The finding could also lead to the development of specifically designed pharmaceuticals to tackle bowel and brain cancer, said Dr Tim Bates, of Lincoln University and New-Use Therapeutics, a drugs development company. He explained that tricyclic antidepressants worked by attacking the "Achilles' heel" of some cancer cells, their mitochondria. These are the chemical powerhouses that enable cells to function.

He said: "As cancer mitochondria are biochemically different from mitochondria in normal non-cancer cells, they represent an Achilles' heel." Tricyclic antidepressants appeared to interfere with the normal working of mitochondria in bowel and glioma cancer cells, he added.

He went on: "The cancer prevention action of these drugs may translate into one that is also useful in treating glioma, both in adults and in children, and colorectal cancer."

The study, paid for with £75,000 from the publicly-funded Medical Research Council, compared about 31,500 people with cancer with about 61,500 people without, and was adjusted for age, gender, smoking, obesity and other factors.

It showed that people on tricyclic antidepressants were between 16 and 21 per cent less likely to have developed bowel cancer, with those who had been taking them at higher doses for longer receiving greater protection. Bowel cancer is the second bigger cancer killer in Britain after lung cancer, killing 16,000 people a year.

For glioma, tumours of the brain and spine, which kill up to 2,000 a year, the reduced risk was between 41 and 64 per cent. There was no effect on reducing incidence of other types of cancer.

The research has been published in the British Journal of Cancer.


Friday, August 26, 2011

One or two drinks a day 'can protect against dementia' especially in older people

This may be so but it may also show (for instance) that moderate drinkers are more sociable and that sociable people are less likely to get dementia

Drinking could reduce the risk of dementia, especially in older people, according to two new reviews. Experts claim social drinkers may be less likely to suffer mental decline, with a 23 per cent reduction in risk.

US researchers claim middle-aged and older adults who drink moderate amounts – around one to two drinks a day – get protection against suffering Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

An analysis of 143 studies by Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine researchers looked at the effect of drinking on 365,000 participants. It found moderate drinkers were 23 per cent less likely to develop cognitive impairment or dementia. Wine was more beneficial than beer, and there was no difference in the effects for men and women.

But heavy drinking – defined as more than three to five drinks a day – was linked to dementia, although the finding was not statistically significant.

The analysis calculated the risk ratio between drinkers and non-drinkers of developing dementia in studies dating back to 1977.

Researcher Professor Edward Neafsey said ‘We don’t recommend non-drinkers start drinking. But moderate drinking – if it is truly moderate – can be beneficial.’

It is unknown why moderate drinking can have a beneficial effect, but the well-known benefits of alcohol on the heart may result in better blood flow in the brain and mental functioning.

Another explanation is ‘sick quitters’, which means that the comparison group of non-drinkers who do not get mental protection also contains heavy drinkers who quit after damaging their brain cells. But the researchers accounted for this, by looking at studies which excluded former heavy drinkers, and they found the benefits of moderate drinking still held.

The researchers, who published their findings in the journal Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, said small amounts of alcohol may make brain cells more ‘fit’. Alcohol in moderate amounts stresses cells and thus toughens them up to cope with major stresses that might eventually lead to dementia.

However, the researchers say other things also reduce the risk of dementia such as exercise, education and a Mediterranean diet high in fruits, vegetables, cereals, beans, nuts and seeds.

Another review by a panel backed by the drinks industry concludes that older people have most to gain from regular drinking, as long as it isn’t heavy consumption.

But light to moderate drinking does not harm the brainpower of younger people, says the review by the International Scientific Forum on Alcohol Research. It analysed 74 studies, involving more than 250,000 people, that investigated the potential effect of alcohol on mental functions.

These studies were published mainly since 1998, with most people taking part over the age of 55 years. Almost three-quarters were aged 65 and over. Checks for mental impairment and dementia were made using well established questionnaires and other techniques.

The review ‘overwhelmingly found that moderate drinking either reduced or had no effect on the risk of dementia or cognitive impairment’.

It said ‘Overall, light to moderate drinking does not appear to impair cognition in younger subjects and actually seems to reduce the risk of dementia and cognitive decline in older subjects.’

Heavy drinking was linked to higher risk for brain damage, although it was not statistically significant.

Drinking wine was found to be better for the brain than beer or spirits, but the review sounded a note of caution saying there were relatively few studies that noted the type of beverage and some specifically stated there was no difference.


Social networking increases risk of teen drug abuse: study

This may simply show that drug dependant kids are also more Facebook dependant. The direction of cause is entirely speculative

Time spent social networking increases the risk of teens smoking, drinking and using drugs, according to a national survey of American attitudes on substance abuse.

On a typical day, 70 per cent of teens ages 12 to 17 - 17 million teenagers - spend from a minute to hours on Facebook, Myspace and other social networking sites, according to The National Centre on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University.

But for this same age bracket, social-network-savvy teens are five times more likely to use tobacco; three times more likely to use alcohol; and twice as likely to use marijuana than teens who do not spend any of their day on social networking sites.
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"The results are profoundly troubling ... the anything goes, free-for-all world of internet expression, suggestive television programing and what-the-hell attitudes put teens at sharply increased risk of substance abuse," CASA Founder and Chairman Joseph Califano Jr said in a statement on Wednesday.

Knowledge Networks surveyed 1037 teens ages 12 to 17 and 528 parents of these teens over the internet. QEV Analytics conducted the annual telephone survey of 1006 teens 12 to 17, asking questions CASA has used to track trends.

Results revealed that half of teens who spend any time social networking in a given day have seen pictures of kids "drunk, passed out, or using drugs on these sites".

But even beyond the daily teen social networkers, 14 per cent of teens who reported spending no time on such sites in a given day said they have seen pictures of drunk, passed out, or drug-using kids on the sites.

Teens who had seen such pictures were four times likelier to be able to get marijuana, three times likelier to be able to get prescription drugs without a prescription, and twice as likely to be able to get alcohol in a day at most.

Teens who had seen such pictures were also more than twice as likely to think they would try drugs in the future, and much more likely to have friends who used illegal drugs.

"Especially troubling - and alarming - are that almost half of the teens who have seen pictures ... first saw such pictures when they were 13 years of age or younger," the report said. "These facts alone should strike Facebook fear into the hearts of parents of young children."

But the surveys, which also questioned adults, found that nine of 10 parents do not think teens spending time social networking are any more likely to drink or use drugs.

Only 64 per cent of parents said they monitor their child's social networking page.

The authors of the report called for parents - still the greatest influence on a teen's decision whether to smoke, drink, or use drugs - to present a consistent and unified front against substance abuse. "In the cultural seas into which we toss our teens, parents are essential to preventing their substance abuse."

The report also urged operators of social networking sites to curb such images and deny use to adolescents who post them. "Continuing to provide the electronic vehicle for transmitting such images constitutes electronic child abuse," it said.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Salt: Just a teaspoon a day 'dulls the mind' and increases your risk of Alzheimer's disease (?)

Epidemiological rubbish. Middle class people are more likely to hear and heed the constant warnings about salt and they have better health anyway

Too much salt could be bad for your brain as well as your heart, doctors have warned. Elderly people who have salt-rich diets and do little exercise suffer a quicker mental decline than those who are more prudent with their intake, a study has found. Worryingly, just over a teaspoon of salt a day could dull the mind and raise the risk of Alzheimer’s, the study suggests.

Salt’s danger to the heart is well known but the latest study is the first to link it to deterioration of brain health in the elderly.

The Canadian team tracked the salt consumption and levels of physical activity of 1,262 healthy men and women aged between 67 and 84 over a three-year period. They also assessed the mental health of the participants at the start of the study and once a year for the duration, using a battery of tests more commonly used to diagnose Alzheimer’s.

‘The results of our study showed that a diet high in sodium, combined with little exercise, was especially detrimental to the cognitive performance of older adults,’ said Dr Alexandra Fiocco from the University of Toronto.

‘But the good news is that sedentary older adults showed no cognitive decline over the three years that we followed them if they had low sodium intake.’ A high level was defined as more than 3,090mg of pure sodium a day – or just over a teaspoon of salt a day at 7.7g.

This is the equivalent of 15 bags of crisps, three-and-a-half Big Macs or almost two full English breakfasts. But some of those taking part in the study were eating almost three times this, the journal Neurobiology of Aging reports.

The researchers said that knowledge of the link between salt and declining brain power could help people age healthily. ‘These findings are important because they help people know they can be proactive in retaining healthy brains as they age,’ said Carol Greenwood, a professor at the University of Toronto and another one of the authors.

‘Baby Boomers especially need to know that sitting on the couch watching television for long periods of time and eating salty snacks is not good for them.’

Deborah Barnes, a dementia expert at the University of California in San Francisco, said: ‘This is one of the first studies that looks at sodium. It’s another important point about diet. You need to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and stay away from processed foods.’

In the UK, the Food Standards Agency recommends that adults should eat no more than 6g of salt, or one teaspoon, per day. But the average Briton’s intake is well over the limit at 8.6g.

Research suggests people who reduce salt in their diet by about 3g a day – the equivalent of six slices of bread – can reduce their chances of developing cardiovascular disease by a quarter.

Children aged one to three should eat no more than 2g per day, rising to 3g per day for four to six-year-olds and 5g for seven to tens.

A recent major review of the evidence on the dangers posed by salt created controversy by concluding that lowering consumption has little effect on health. But other experts say that one in five strokes and heart attacks would be prevented if everyone just ate a third of a teaspoon less of salt a day.


Medical Magellans

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules are supposedly intended to ensure the safety and efficacy of new drugs and medical devices. It is FDA’s technology gatekeeper role—its power to approve or reject medical innovations in a one-size-fits-all fashion—that I would sacrifice willingly.

I seek the freedom to explore the medical frontier, to have access to experimental medicines and medical devices that the FDA has not approved, and to go out (as I’ll explain) as a hero.

I agree that taxes and government spending are out of control. These forms of government intervention are troubling, but at least they are receiving attention. Yet taxing and spending are relatively transparent compared to regulation, whose costs are off budget and whose impacts are diffused throughout the economy. Regulatory reform has received too little attention in the current fiscal debate. That is unfortunate, because the burdens of federal regulations are massive, now estimated at almost $2 trillion annually.

My proposal would save relatively little taxpayer money directly, but the larger impact of a more liberalized medical exploration process would be tremendous. It would enhance individual liberty and the range of medical options for countless Americans. It would also increase economic growth and harness the cost-reducing impact of technological innovation.

It is important to note that the costs imposed by FDA regulation are measured also in terms of human lives. FDA restrictions have significantly increased the costs of research and time of diffusion for the development of new, health-enhancing products. On average, it may take an innovator up to 15 years and as much as $1 billion to move a drug from the laboratory to FDA approval.

Health care innovations face much greater impediments than innovations in most other sectors of the economy. Elsewhere, entrepreneurs conceive new products that they believe offer value to consumers, introduce them to the market, and hope that consumers will buy them.

In health care, nothing can be introduced until it has received FDA approval. However, as a government agency that cannot be made immune to politics, the FDA is highly sensitive to any unintended mishap for which it might be blamed. For example, former FDA Commissioner Alexander M. Schmidt noted in 1974: “In all of FDA’s history, I am unable to find a single instance where a congressional committee investigated the failure of FDA to approve a new drug. But, the times when hearings have been held to criticize our approval of new drugs have been so frequent that we aren't able to count them. . . . The message to FDA staff could not be clearer.”

The message is that the agency should always err on the side of over-caution.

There is no such thing as a perfectly safe drug or medical device, thus approvals sometimes create identifiable “victims.” On the other hand, the victims of FDA intransigence—those who never get a chance to benefit from the health-enhancing treatments that the agency has blocked or delayed—are unknown and politically invisible, and thus the agency is held blameless for them. Medical innovation is an inherently complex process, with just one of every 250 drugs which begins clinical testing ever making it to market.

Clearly, another strategy for medical innovation is needed. Milton Friedman argued that the quality of our health care would advance more rapidly if the FDA were abolished. My suggestion is a bit more modest. I would simply liberalize the FDA’s gatekeeper policies, allowing each of us—if we wish—to escape our “victim” status and to allow us one last chance, at the end of our lives, to dare the unknown, to perform one last heroic act.

At some point, a doctor will say, “Mr. Smith, there’s nothing more I can do for you.” Yet in many cases, although no approved intervention may exist, there will be a list of potential interventions that might address my “incurable” ailment. Must we check out as victims, or might we instead be given the opportunity to go out as heroes?

Naturally, some paths will lead literally to dead ends. Taking the wrong path entails both high costs and great dangers. Unlike Lazarus, we are all on a one-way trip through life, and sometimes fate or our bad choices shorten that trip. We would have to develop a reasonable informed consent protocol: Volunteers should be aware that their selected intervention is unlikely to succeed and that they might experience painful side-effects or an earlier death. They should give up the right to sue, and they may need to bear the costs of treatment themselves. Offsetting this, however, would be the individualist value of being in control of the final leg of one’s life journey. I’d like to have that opportunity, and millions of other Americans would, too.

Thus, my recommendation is to allow us all to elect to perform for our fellow citizens (and our descendants) one final heroic act. As free individuals, shouldn’t we be allowed to volunteer as Medical Magellans to explore those possible passages to a healthier world?


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Will oats prevent heart attacks?

This is a very confused study with all sorts of potential effects involved. And there was NO evidence of impact on heart disease

Eating more nuts and oats – rather than simply avoiding fatty foods – could boost efforts to reduce cholesterol, say scientists. They found a diet rich in foods known to lower cholesterol levels was more effective than cutting out saturated fats alone.

The diet that worked best in the study also included soy products such as milk, tofu and meat substitutes, while eating more peas, beans and lentils was encouraged.

Canadian researchers discovered that a six-month change to the diet could result in a ‘meaningful’ 13 per cent reduction in blood levels of LDL cholesterol, often known as ‘bad’ cholesterol.

Following the diet for longer would give a predicted reduction of almost 11 per cent in heart disease risk over a ten-year period.

In the study, 345 patients, all of whom suffered from high cholesterol, were split into three groups, one of which was merely recommended to adopt a low-fat diet that included fruit and vegetables.

The other two were advised on a dietary ‘portfolio’ consisting of specific foods known to lower LDL cholesterol such as nuts, oats, soy products and lentils.

One group was counselled during two clinic visits while the other underwent an ‘intensive’ course of seven visits.

After six months the low-fat group had experienced a drop in LDL cholesterol levels of 3 per cent.

However, switching to a diet that actively lowered LDL cholesterol led to a reduction of over 13 per cent: 13.1 per cent in the group that had two visits and 13.8 per cent for the group that had seven visits.

The researchers, led by Dr David Jenkins, from the University of Toronto, reported their findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The scientists pointed out that the study participants were already on modified diets aimed at improving their cholesterol readings. Larger reductions in LDL cholesterol might be seen in people with diets ‘more reflective of the general population’, they said.

Victoria Taylor, senior heart health dietician at the British Heart Foundation, said: ‘This study is encouraging. ‘However, people need to be aware that following this type of plan in the long term takes commitment. Eating a few nuts or having the odd portion of soya beans won’t make up for an otherwise poor diet.

‘All the people in this trial were already eating a low-saturated fat diet, and this remains our first and foremost advice to people who want or need to reduce their cholesterol.’


Girls at risk of talking too much, scientists find

Girls who talk to their friends at length about their problems could be making them worse, psychologists have warned.

The scientists conducted a series of studies and found that girls hoped to feel more cared for, understood and less alone by talking things through. However, they said it could actually lead to depression and stress. They advised parents to try to persuade their children that there were other tactics to cope with issues than merely talking.

Four different studies were conducted including surveys and observations of nearly 2,000 children and teenagers.

Amanda Rose, associate professor of psychological sciences in the University of Missouri College of Arts and Science, who led the research, said: “Many girls are at risk for excessive problem talk, which is linked with depression and anxiety, so girls should know that talking about problems isn't the only way to cope.”

The research also confirmed the widely held view that boys think that discussing their problems is a waste of time.

Prof Rose added: “For years, popular psychologists have insisted that boys and men would like to talk about their problems but are held back by fears of embarrassment or appearing weak. “However, when we asked young people how talking about their problems would make them feel, boys didn't express angst or distress about discussing problems any more than girls. “Instead, boys’ responses suggest that they just don't see talking about problems to be a particularly useful activity.”

Prof Rose said the study could have help adult romantic relationships and suggest that the why women often insist on talking about problems while men are not interested is that women think it will help, while men have other tactics for dealing with the issues.

She added: “Men may be more likely to think talking about problems will make the problems feel bigger, and engaging in different activities will take their minds off of the problem. “Men may just not be coming from the same place as their partners.”


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Sugary diet link to womb cancer risk: Regular sweet snacks increase threat 33%

This is just data dredging. After looking at lots of things they found one tiny difference -- as they would by chance alone

Snacking regularly on biscuits, buns or cakes can significantly increase a woman’s chances of developing womb cancer, a study shows.

Women who gave themselves such a treat two to three times a week were 33 per cent more likely to suffer the disease than those who rarely raided the biscuit tin.

Among those indulging more than three times a week, the risk of falling ill with a tumour jumped by 42 per cent.

However, their overall chances were still low as the odds of the average woman in the study developing the disease during the 18-plus years of the research were just over 1 per cent.

The researchers described the size of the effect as ‘modest’ but said it warranted further investigation.

British cancer experts emphasised that it is too early to draw any firm conclusions.

To look for a link between sugary foods and womb cancer, the Swedish scientists studied data from thousands of women who, between 1987 and 1990, had answered dozens of questions on diet, lifestyle, weight and general health. Ten years later, those still alive answered an even more extensive battery of questions on their eating habits.

In 2008, the researchers matched up the women’s answers with their medical records, specifically looking for diagnoses of endometrial cancer – the most common form of womb cancer. They found 729 cases out of the 61,226 women studied.

There was little or no increase in risk from eating certain high-sugar items such as sweets, soft drinks, jam or marmalade.

But women who snacked frequently on cakes, buns or biscuits were up to 42 per cent more likely to get cancer than those who had them once a fortnight or less.

It isn’t clear why some sweet treats were linked to the cancer but others were not.

The study looked at how often volunteers ate such treats but not specifically how much. However, those exceeding a total intake of more than 35 grams of sugar a day – equivalent to about seven teaspoons – faced a 36 per cent increase in tumour risk.

The scientists, from Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute, say there are several ways that sweet snacks could push up the risk of the disease. One is that sugar overload makes the body release more insulin, which can stimulate the excessive growth of cells in the endometrium, the lining of the womb.

Another is that it boosts levels of the hormone oestrogen, which has been shown to trigger the uncontrolled growth of cells, a key characteristic of cancer.

Their findings were published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.

Yinka Ebo, senior health information manager at Cancer Research UK, said keeping a healthy weight and staying physically active were the best ways to reduce womb cancer risk.

She added: ‘This study shows eating lots of sugar and certain sugary foods may increase the risk of womb cancer, but we would need to see these results repeated in other large studies like this before we can draw any firm conclusions.’

Endometrial cancer affects around 6,400 women a year in the UK and kills an estimated 1,000 annually.

Risk goes up with age, weight and with having a mother who had the disease. However, having children appears to lower the risk.


That dangerous WATER!

Eloquent confirmation that the toxicity is in the dose

A man died after suffering devastating brain damage after drinking 'pint after pint' of water. His family believe the problems started when an Ecstasy pill was slipped into his drink during an evening out.

Matthew Ellis, 29 died more than seven months later from a chest infection in hospital in Sheffield. He was rushed to intensive care after collapsing at his father's home on Boxing Day last year.

Matthew's mother Maureen warned others about the little known but catastrophic dangers of drinking too much water. The drug made him crave water and the excess liquid he drank caused his salt levels to plummet bringing on a rare brain condition called extrapontine myelinolysis.

Mrs Ellis, 62, said: 'There is no health warning, water is good for you if you have a certain amount,'. 'But we want to make people more aware not to drink that much. Matthew went through absolute hell and it's such a waste of a young life.'

Mrs Ellis, a council technical support officer, said Matthew had been working in Wales before Christmas and had taken time off over the holiday period and was staying in Sheffield with his family. He had been due to start a job at Doncaster Prison in January.

He stayed out late drinking on Boxing Day before going back to spend the night at the home of his 66-year-old father Ken in Lowedges, Sheffield. 'The following day he felt poorly and started drinking lots of water,' said Mrs Ellis.

'He was drinking pints and pints . We don't know exactly home much but he was drinking constantly throughout the day. 'The next day my eldest son Andrew phoned and said Matthew was starting to fit and had nearly fallen down the stairs. Then he collapsed in the kitchen.' He suffered five seizures in the ambulance on the way to hospital and eventually died on August 4.

Mrs Ellis added: 'A consultant told me that Matthew must have unknowlingly been slipped an Ecstasy tablet. 'He never took drugs of any kind. He like to go out but not on a regular basis and might go six months without having a drink.'

He suffered irreversible brain damage after slipping into a coma - and his mother gave the hospital permission to switch off his life support machine. However, he came round again in January although he could no longer remember who he was.

His funeral is due to be held on Saturday.

Nutrition expert Mayur Ranchordas, who lectures in physiology and nutrition at Sheffield Hallam University said water intoxication or hyponatraemia can have devastating effects. He added: 'Extrapontine myelinolysis is a very rare condition. Too much water is actually very, very bad for you.

'Hyponatraemia is quite common among recreational runners on half marathon and marathon events. 'They're not running at a high intensity but they're still stopping at all the water stations, taking on large amounts of water and trying to stay hydrated.'


Monday, August 22, 2011

Food is not alone in making us fat - stress, insomnia and allergies are also factors(?)

This is a bit if a cop-out. Various things may impede dieting but your excess of input over output is still what makes you fat

IT'S one of those questions too many people torture themselves with: "Why can't I lose any weight?" You can cut back on the junk food, exercise more frequently but are still unable to shift those unwanted kilos.

A leading American physician will tell an Australian audience today that allergies, stress, insomnia and being toxic are all reasons people struggle to lose weight.

In her new book, A Guide to Solving Your Weight-Loss Puzzle: Why You Can't Lose Weight, Dr Pamela Waritan Smith says that it is not as simple as what you eat and what you burn.

"It's not just calories in and out - if it were that simple everyone in the world would be the way that they want to be," Dr Smith told The Sunday Telegraph.

The co-director of the Metabolic and Nutritional Program at the University of South Florida College of Medicine, Dr Smith said for every extra 0.45kg someone carries on their frame, they put 1.36 million kg of stress on their joints each year.

"Sometimes it's confusing to people if they have an allergic response. You can have two kinds of allergic response, one is what we call an IgE, which can be shrimp, and is pretty immediate, for example, resulting in shortness of breath or a rash.

"The other which is termed as an IgG response, is an allergy which can usually happen a couple of days later. "People may gain weight, get a stomachache or a headache, but they don't equate it to the food (they have eaten)." Symptoms include abdominal pain, backache, dark circles under the eyes, diarrhoea, dizziness, hives, muscle aches and pains, a persistent cough and memory changes.

Her book is being launched today at the Australasian Academy of Anti-Ageing Medicine (A5M) Conference in Melbourne, where Dr Smith is giving a series of talks.

Dr Smith said lack of sleep and stress were also contributing to weight gain. "When people stay stressed they put weight on around the middle," she said. "And I do think modern life affects it for many different reasons. "Insomnia and sleep deprivation, people that don't get 6 1/2 hours a night of good solid sleep also suffer."

The book also reveals being toxic is another key factor. Symptoms of toxicity include abdominal bloating, belching, cramping, gas, heartburn and weight gain, depression, itching, muscle aches and pains and skin rashes.

Dr Smith advised seeing a "specialised practioner or physician" to determine if your weight gain was due to allergies or toxicity.


New weapon in battle against C-diff as scientists work out how to stop its poisons

So far this seems to be research in laboratory glassware only

Doctors could soon have a new weapon in the war against C. diff, the superbug that kills thousands of Britons each year. C. diff produces poisons which, in the worst cases, can cause a potentially fatal infection of the abdomen.

U.S. scientists used two molecules to deactivate the toxins, preventing them from causing harm. They now plan to test the technique on people for the first time. A similar strategy could be deployed against other bacteria, say the University of Texas researchers writing in the journal Nature Medicine.

The bug thrives in filthy conditions and has been blamed for almost 18,000 deaths in the last decade – more than MRSA. Numbers are falling, but the superbug was still linked to almost 4,000 deaths in 2009, the latest year for which figures are available.

Although antibiotic treatment does have some success, many patients relapse, with successive bouts of diarrhoea making them weaker and weaker.

C. diff produces poisons which cause diarrhoea, and in the worst cases, a potentially fatal infection of the abdomen.

However, the poisons can only wreak havoc if they can work their way into the cells that line the gut. And US scientists have worked out how to stop them in their tracks. They used two molecules to deactivate the toxins, preventing them from causing harm.

University of Texas researcher Professor Tor Savidge said: ‘Think of these toxins as missiles that the bacteria are producing to go off and detonate inside the cell. ‘One way to defend against the missiles is to send out signals that trick them into either disarming their sensory mechanisms or get them to prematurely detonate.’

The combination worked so well, that the researchers plan to test it on people for the first time. The need to give it to large numbers of people to check it is safe and effective means it is around seven years from widespread use.

It is hoped that targeting the bug in this way would stop the bacteria from developing resistance against the treatment.

Researcher Charalabos Pothoulakis, of the University of California, Los Angeles, said: ‘Identification of new treatment modalities to treat this infection would be a major advance. ‘If we are successful with this approach, we may be able to treat other bacterial diseases in the same way.’

C. diff exists naturally in the stomachs of many healthy adults, where it is kept under control by 'friendly bacteria'. The problems start if the balance of bacteria is disturbed, perhaps by giving someone antibiotics for another infection.

Once the 'friendly' bacteria are killed off, the C diff are able to multiply and produce poisons which cause diarrhoea and, in the worst cases, a potentially fatal infection of the abdomen.

The spread of the bacterium, via hardy spores, is swift and the bug is difficult to wipe out because it is resistant to some standard disinfectants. But simple soap and water can be used to clean the hands, while powerful disinfectants can keep floors bug-free. Hygiene drives are credited with the number of cases in hospital cases plummeting from 33,342 in 2007 to 2008, to 10,414 last year.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Drinking moderate amounts of coffee can help ward off non-melanoma?

This is another rodent study and to compare mice skin (normally hair-covered) with human skin is absurd

COFFEE has been shown to reduce the risk of skin cancer by helping kill off damaged cells that could otherwise turn into tumours, researchers say. Moderate caffeine drinking, or perhaps even applying coffee to the skin, could be useful in warding off non-melanoma cancer, the most commonly diagnosed of all skin cancers, the study published today shows.

Using mice that had been genetically altered to suppress a protein called ATR, researchers showed the rodents were able to fend off cancer even when exposed to ultraviolet light. The altered mice eventually did develop cancer, but three weeks later than normal mice.

Previous studies have suggested that drinking a cup of caffeinated coffee per day has the effect of suppressing ATR and triggering the die-off of cells harmed by UV rays.

After 19 weeks of ultraviolet light exposure, the engineered mice showed 69 per cent fewer tumours and four times fewer invasive tumours than the control group. However, the protective effects only went so far. After 34 weeks of UV exposure, all the mice developed tumours.

"Eventually, if you treat them long enough, the mice will develop cancer so it is not 100 per cent protection forever," Allan Coffey, one of the study's authors said. "Really, with almost any carcinogen, eventually all the animals will develop tumours."

The team were able to confirm their hypothesis that caffeine - when consumed or applied to the skin - works by inhibiting ATR. Now they say more studies are needed to see how it may work on humans. "We want to see whether caffeine has an effect in people when you give it topically," he said.

Skin cancer is the most prevalent cancer in the United States, with more than one million new cases each year, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Non-melanoma types of skin cancer, including basal cell and squamous cell types, are the most commonly diagnosed and are often treatable if detected early.


Raise a glass to the 'red wine pill' to cure everything from obesity to cancer

The old resveratrol religion again. For a start, this is based on mouse studies; and secondly, the company owning the "miracle" drug has given up on it. Obviously later work has not confirmed the early promise. Ya gotta laugh!

In terms of medical achievements, this has got to be the big one – an all-in-one treatment that works against obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Astoundingly, a drug capable of doing just that could be available within three years.

And it gets better. The new treatment could be a godsend for couch potatoes, allowing them to eat as much as they like without putting on a pound. They could even receive all the benefits of exercise without leaving the sofa.

The excitement surrounds a family of drugs based on resveratrol, the ‘miracle ingredient’ in red wine credited with inhibiting the development of cancer and heart disease.

The drugs would activate a gene called SIRT1 that is key to longevity and energy, and their potency would give them the equivalent health benefits of 8,000 bottles of wine.

Mice given one of the drugs, known as SRT1720, did not gain an ounce of weight despite being fed fatty foods, and blood tests suggested they were protected against diabetes. They also showed improved stamina.

Now a follow-up study, led by the U.S. government’s health research arm, has confirmed the drug’s promise. This time, giving it to ‘middle-aged’ mice allowed them to escape many of the dangers of a bad diet, with those eating fatty foods living almost as long as mice fed normally. At high doses, the drug extended the life of the junk food group by as much as 44 per cent.

In addition, it stopped fat from clogging up their livers and, once again, appeared to protect against diabetes. The journal Scientific Reports also states that the treated animals were more active.

The drugs are being developed by Sirtris, a biotech firm bought by pharmaceutical powerhouse GlaxoSmithKline three years ago.

GSK is no longer pursuing SRT1720 [I wonder why?], but three similar – and potentially even better – drugs are already being tested on people. The first of these could be widely available within three years.

Researcher Rafael de Cabo, of the National Institutes of Health in Baltimore, said the drugs offer the promise of a healthy old age. ‘To me, the most tantalising thing about the findings are the health benefits,’ he said. ‘I don’t care much about living five years longer as long as I live what I am supposed to live completely healthy.’

It is not known who the drugs will be aimed at but, initially, they are likely to be reserved for treating and preventing disease in the severely overweight.


Saturday, August 20, 2011

A baby's first 1,000 days 'determines their health prospects for life'

The article below suffers from a failure in calibration. Severe trauma or deprivation at any stage can obviously affect health. So why is the first 1,000 days picked out? If trauma in that period is particularly harmful, where is the evidence? In fact, the evidence is rather the other way. Brain damage and some other traumas are in fact best recovered from in the very young

You have encouraged them to eat their greens, battled to get them into the best school and sweated with them over their homework – all to give them the best start in life.

But your children’s prospects may have been determined long before all the hard work. A growing body of research suggests the first 1,000 days of a child’s life – the nine months in the womb and the first two years out of it – are vital to their long-term health.

That period can permanently affect everything from a child’s chances of developing diabetes or having a heart attack in old age, to their future weight and life expectancy.

The theory was developed after decades of research by Professor David Barker and his colleagues at Southampton University. They believe there are a series of critical stages in a child’s development. If conditions are not perfect at each step, problems can occur later.

Many of these danger points lie when the baby is still in the womb. Poor nutrition for a mother affects both the unborn baby’s weight and how well the placenta works, while smoking, stress, drugs and alcohol can also take their toll.

Professor Barker believes many health problems can be traced back to poor growth in the womb. He has shown that the lighter a baby is at birth, the higher its odds of heart disease in later life. On average, a baby weighing less than 5lb 7oz is twice as likely to die from a heart attack than one born at 9lb 7oz.

It is thought that when food is scarce in the womb, it is channelled to the fledgling brain, leaving the heart weakened. The seeds of diabetes may also be sown before birth, as the pancreatic cells which make insulin develop in the womb. Conditions in the uterus can also affect weight for years to come, studies suggest.

Professor Barker said many of these early effects are ‘set in stone’ and cannot be undone. He added that the key to health is ensuring women eat well throughout their lives.

He said: ‘It is about building a body that the baby can live off. The baby lives off the mother’s body – not what she snacks on during pregnancy. ‘What we are seeing is a window of opportunity where we can make better people.’


Let’s put a stop to the war on salt

First Lady Michelle Obama has been lobbying strongly this year for food manufacturers to reduce the sodium content of their products.

Her efforts scored a major victory last month when the Council of Better Business Bureaus rolled out new criteria for reducing the sodium, sugar, and fat in children’s food and beverages. Seventeen companies are participating in the initiative, including the Campbell Soup Company, General Mills, and Kraft Foods.

While this will mean higher food prices as producers reformulate their recipes , we are led to believe that this will be a small price to pay for longer lives and better health. However, claims that sodium poses a significant health risk may be unfounded.

Health writer Melinda Wenner Moyer, in an article in Scientific American in July called for an end to the “war on salt,” as there is no conclusive evidence to warrant sweeping and intrusive mandates to reduce or eliminate salt from foods. Moyer cites a 2011 study that found “no strong evidence that cutting salt intake reduces the risk for heart attacks, strokes or death in people with normal or high blood pressure.” And scientists with the European Project on Genes in Hypertension recently published results of another study in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggesting a inverse correlation between sodium consumption and heart-disease deaths!

Anti-salt crusaders have long relied on a single study from the 1970s, in which scientist Lewis Dahl found salt to cause high blood pressure in rats. The trouble with Dahl’s study is that he fed the rats the human equivalent of 500 grams of sodium a day. A human would have to eat nearly 1,000 McDonald’s hamburgers a day to achieve the same result!

Dahl also failed to differentiate between population trends. According to Moyer, “People living in countries with a high salt consumption—such as Japan—also tend to have high blood pressure and more strokes.

But as a paper pointed out several years later in the American Journal of Hypertension, scientists had little luck finding such associations when they compared sodium intakes within populations, which suggested that genetics or other cultural factors might be the culprit” [emphasis in original].

Dahl made the common fallacy of mistaking correlation for causation. He and his supporters have failed to control or account for myriad additional variables. Without more certitude, bureaucrats have no basis to either make claims about sodium posing a threat to health or place burdensome regulations on producers.

Yet, many food manufacturers are working to preempt regulation by reducing the sodium content in their products at considerable cost. Those costs are then passed on to consumers—many of whom will simply forgo the less salty, blander versions of those food products, as Campbell’s reversal of its decision to lower many of its soups’ salt content due to weak sales indicates.

This highlights a larger issue: regulators basing their rules on estimates and percentages. Moyer points to a study that “estimated that cutting salt intake by about 35 percent would save at least 44,000 American lives per year.”

Yet people are not percentages. Do we know that there are 44,000 people at death’s door? No, we do not. That is because these people do not exist; they are believed to exist and predicted to exist by experts. But, as Moyer says, “such estimates are not evidence, either; they are conjecture.”

Each person’s individual risk of heart disease is based on many factors, including lifestyle, genetics, and access to health care. Diet, including sodium consumption, is only one of many factors.

It is foolhardy for politicians to lump all individual cases together and make prescriptions for society at large that will limit individual choice and raise our cost of living. The European Project on Genes scientists agreed, noting their conclusions “do also not support the current recommendations of a generalized and indiscriminate reduction of salt intake at the population level.”

The war on salt is one more way in which politicians are trying to get between you, your children, and your doctor—in this case by removing options from store shelves. Moyer is correct to call for an end to the war on salt—but that is just a skirmish in the larger fight over consumer liberty.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Muesli not necessarily a "healthy" choice

Before tucking into your morning muesli be warned, you may be about to eat more fat than there is in a McDonald's Double Quarter Pounder, Choice says.

The consumer organisation tested 159 types of muesli and discovered that the popular breakfast meal isn't necessarily a healthy choice.

"Whilst much of the fat content in muesli is the 'good' unsaturated type, coming from oats, seeds and nuts, the high fat varieties can still pack a high number of kilojoules," Choice spokeswoman Ingrid Just said today.

One brand, The Muesli, contains twice as much fat as a McDonald's Double Quarter Pounder, Choice said. And two gluten-free varieties - Sunsol Gluten Free and Nu-Vit Low Fat Fruity Muesli Gluten Free - contain a whooping 43 per cent of sugar, seven per cent more than Coco Pops. "If you are eating muesli to try and lose weight then the overall fat and sugar content needs to be taken into consideration," Ms Just said.

Choice has called for traffic light colour labelling on all mueslis that make nutrition or health claims, which would rate fat, fibre, energy and sugar content.

Choice found almost three quarters of muesli products contain at least one health claim. "The most common are gluten-free and wheat-free claims or relate to fibre and or wholegrain content," the report says. "But low in salt, no added sugar, high protein, low GI and low fat claims are also popular."

The problem, the report says, is that nutrition claims don't tell the whole story. "Morpeth Sourdough Muesli Delux says it has 'no added sugar' but its dried fruit content and added honey result in a product that's almost 28 per cent sugar," Ms Just said.

When out shopping, Choice suggests you check the nutritional information panel and the ingredients list for added sugars such as honey or glucose.


Cheese: "Bad for the Environment"

EVERYTHING is bad for the environment

It’s not news: We need to eat less meat. Producing meat ready for the plate takes large amounts of fuel, fertilizers, pesticides, and water. Eating meat can also put your health at risk and endanger animal welfare. That’s why what you eat matters, says the [crooked] Environmental Working Group, which recently released a “Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change and Health.”

But even vegetarians may be hard pressed by the group’s findings. As it turns out, public enemy number three, right after lamb and beef, is cheese.

EWG partnered with CleanMetrics, an environmental analysis firm, to examine 20 types of meat, fish, dairy, and vegetable proteins and evaluate their impacts on the earth. Together, they looked into fertilizers, pesticides, feed, transportation costs, and how much of the final product was ultimately thrown away, including many more factors.

They found that different foods impact the environment in different ways, and to lessen our footprints on the earth, we need to change our eating habits.

Beef, which ranked second for harmful impact on the earth, emits almost four times as much carbon dioxide than chicken and 13 times more than vegetable proteins, such as lentils, beans, and tofu.

What’s surprising is that chicken, salmon, and even pork made out better than cheese. Cheese wound up high on the list because it takes a lot milk to make a little cheese. Dairy cows release large amounts of methane, which is a worse greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and let’s not forget the amount of feed and antibiotics that the cows need.

EWG recommends eating less cheese. But it just so happens that cheese is delicious. So, while you may not be able to go without, eat lower-fat cheeses, such as skim mozzarella, gouda, and cottage cheese, which have less effect on the environment and your health.

As another consolation, the ranking is based on the ounce. While big burgers and steaks are typical meal options, it’s rare that someone sits down to eat a wheel of cheese. Most people use it sparingly anyway, though we can still choose local cheeses rather than those flown over from Europe to minimize costs.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Omega-3 Reduces Anxiety and Inflammation in Healthy Students, Study Suggests

This is typical of the narrow perspective that typifies believers in popular nostrums. They show no awareness that by inducing one broadly beneficial effect they may also unleash damaging effects elsewhere. Anxiety has its place and suppressing it could (for instance) lead to more risky behavior. And that sort of thing is not just theory. In the same journal there was another recent study which concluded that What Is Good for the Heart May Not Be Good for the Prostate. And what about the finding that high intake of Omega 3 is linked to increased risk of colon cancer??

And since Omega 3 is such a popular religion, there must be thousands of studies of it underway at any one time. In those circumstances, you will get some false positive findings by chance alone. And the effects described below were quite small in absolute terms and hence shaky.

Only long-term controlled studies using a wide range of health indicators could offer anything like secure conclusions

A new study gauging the impact of consuming more fish oil showed a marked reduction both in inflammation and, surprisingly, in anxiety among a cohort of healthy young people.

The findings suggest that if young participants can get such improvements from specific dietary supplements, then the elderly and people at high risk for certain diseases might benefit even more.

The findings by a team of researchers at Ohio State University were just published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity. It is the latest from more than three decades of research into links between psychological stress and immunity.

Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), have long been considered as positive additives to the diet. Earlier research suggested that the compounds might play a role in reducing the level of cytokines in the body, compounds that promote inflammation, and perhaps even reduce depression.

Psychological stress has repeatedly been shown to increase cytokine production so the researchers wondered if increasing omega-3 might mitigate that process, reducing inflammation.

To test their theory, they turned to a familiar group of research subjects -- medical students. Some of the earliest work these scientists did showed that stress from important medical school tests lowered students' immune status.

"We hypothesized that giving some students omega-3 supplements would decrease their production of proinflammatory cytokines, compared to other students who only received a placebo," explained Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, professor of psychology and psychiatry. "We thought the omega-3 would reduce the stress-induced increase in cytokines that normally arose from nervousness over the tests."

The team assembled a field of 68 first- and second-year medical students who volunteered for the clinical trial. The students were randomly divided into six groups, all of which were interviewed six times during the study. At each visit, blood samples were drawn from the students who also completed a battery of psychological surveys intended to gauge their levels of stress, anxiety or depression. The students also completed questionnaires about their diets during the previous weeks.

Half the students received omega-3 supplements while the other half were given placebo pills. "The supplement was probably about four or five times the amount of fish oil you'd get from a daily serving of salmon, for example," explained Martha Belury, professor of human nutrition and co-author in the study.

But the psychological surveys clearly showed an important change in anxiety among the students: Those receiving the omega-3 showed a 20 percent reduction in anxiety compared to the placebo group.

An analysis of the of the blood samples from the medical students showed similar important results. "We took measurements of the cytokines in the blood serum, as well as measured the productivity of cells that produced two important cytokines, interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFa)," said Ron Glaser, professor of molecular virology, immunology & medical genetics and director of the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research.

"We saw a 14 percent reduction in the amounts of IL-6 among the students receiving the omega-3." Since the cytokines foster inflammation, "anything we can do to reduce cytokines is a big plus in dealing with the overall health of people at risk for many diseases," he said. While inflammation is a natural immune response that helps the body heal, it also can play a harmful role in a host of diseases ranging from arthritis to heart disease to cancer.

While the study showed the positive impact omega-3 supplements can play in reducing both anxiety and inflammation, the researchers aren't willing to recommend that the public start adding them to the daily diet. "It may be too early to recommend a broad use of omega-3 supplements throughout the public, especially considering the cost and the limited supplies of fish needed to supply the oil," Belury said. "People should just consider increasing their omega-3 through their diet."
Some of the researchers, however, acknowledged that they take omega-3 supplements.


Being fat may be healthier for you than constantly trying to diet, claim university researchers

It is the perfect excuse to push aside that salad and pat yourself on the slightly rounded tummy. Scientists have shown it may be better to stay fat than go on diet after diet.

A study of thousands of obese men and women found that more than one in three were perfectly healthy or had only slight health problems. Contrary to the much-publicised message that you have to be thin to be well, they were no more likely to die at any given time than someone of an ideal weight. Indeed, they were less likely to be killed by heart disease.

They were also in better health than those who had fought a constant battle with their weight by repeatedly dieting, only to pile the pounds back on.

The researchers say there is more to good health than how a person tips the scales – and some people classed as overweight are fine as they are.

Rather than try to shed their excess pounds, something that can do more harm than good if repeated time after time, they should simply concentrate on not putting on any more weight.

The advice comes from researchers at Toronto's York University who tracked the health of more than 6,000 obese men and women for an average of 16 years. They underwent medical and physical tests and their results were compared with those of thousands of people of normal weight. This clearly revealed that being slim isn't always superior, according to the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism.

It may be that some people's genes allow them to escape many of the health consequences of being overweight.

Those who are overweight but healthy may also exercise more and eat better than thin people who smoke to suppress their appetites.

And a stressed-out, sedentary person of normal weight may be in worse shape than a plump person who exercises and keeps stress levels under control.

The Canadian researchers said that rather than using body mass index, or BMI, a measure of weight compared to height, to judge whether a person needs to lose weight, doctors should look at overall health.

A previous study found that pensioners who are slightly overweight live longer than those of a normal weight.

The Australian researchers said a bit of extra padding may give someone the reserves needed to recover from falls and illnesses.

It is also possible that concern about the health of the overweight means that problems are spotted and treated earlier.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Antioxidants cause cancer?

If you can get your head around the double negatives below, that is what is implied. In other words, antioxidants are good for health, INCLUDING the health of cancer cells. So you need to WIPE OUT antioxidants to avoid cancer. Pity about that

Sam W. Lee and Anna Mandinova of Massachusetts General Hospital have accidentally discovered a compound that kills cancer cells by suppressing enzymes that detoxify free radicals.
A cancer cell may seem out of control, growing wildly and breaking all the rules of orderly cell life and death. But amid the seeming chaos there is a balance between a cancer cell's revved-up metabolism and skyrocketing levels of cellular stress. Just as a cancer cell depends on a hyperactive metabolism to fuel its rapid growth, it also depends on anti-oxidative enzymes to quench potentially toxic reactive oxygen species (ROS) generated by such high metabolic demand.

Scientists at the Broad Institute and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) have discovered a novel compound that blocks this response to oxidative stress selectively in cancer cells but spares normal cells, with an effectiveness that surpassed a chemotherapy drug currently used to treat breast cancer. Their findings, based on experiments in cell culture and in mice, appear online in Nature on July 13.

The plant-based compound piperlongumine (PL), derived from the fruit of a pepper plant found in southern India and southeast Asia, appears to kill cancer cells by jamming the machinery that dissipates high oxidative stress and the resulting ROS. Normal cells have low levels of ROS, in tune with their more modest metabolism, so they don't need high levels of the anti-oxidant enzymes that PL stymies once they pass a certain threshold.

Cancer cells generate a lot more toxic reactive oxygen species (ROS) because cancer cells grow at a fast rate. Cancer cells have faster rates of metabolism. So a drug that inhibits the cell's defenses against ROS will selectively cause much higher ROS concentration in cancer cells than in normal cells.

Since normal cells do not generate ROS in quantities that are immediately toxic the drug appears to be highly selective for cancer cells.
The scientists tested PL against cancer cells and normal cells engineered to develop cancer. In mice injected with human bladder, breast, lung, or melanoma cancer cells, PL inhibited tumor growth but showed no toxicity in normal mice. In a tougher test of mice that developed breast cancer spontaneously, PL blocked both tumor growth and metastasis. In contrast, the chemotherapy drug paclitaxel (Taxol) was less effective, even at high levels.

"This compound is selectively reducing the enzyme activity involved in oxidative stress balance in cancer cells, so the ROS level can go up above the threshold for cell death," said Lee, a Broad associate member and associate director of CBRC at MGH. "We hope we can use this compound as a starting point for the development of a drug so patients can benefit."


Too much TV has same health effects as smoking and lack of exercise, Australian research finds

This sounds absurd: "every hour of watching shortened the viewer's life expectancy by about 22 minutes". Pretty toxic hours! This is "campaigning" research, I think.

WATCHING TV for six hours a day could shave five years off your life. New Australian-based research has found growing roots on the couch could do as much damage as smoking and lack of exercise.

Experts have previously linked sedentary behaviour with a higher risk of death from heart attack or stroke.

The latest research published by the British Journal of Sports Medicine is the first, however, to study the impact of watching too much TV on life expectancy.

Experts used previously published data on the link between TV viewing time and death from analysis of the Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle Study. This was combined with Australian national population and mortality figures for 2008, to construct a "lifetime risk framework".

Three years ago, Australians aged over 25 watched an estimated 9.8 billion hours of TV. Researchers calculated every hour of watching shortened the viewer's life expectancy by about 22 minutes.

Based on these figures and expected deaths from all causes, the authors calculated an individual who watched an average six hours of TV a day over the course of their life, could expect to die five years earlier than someone who watched no TV.

Separate research has shown lifelong smoking can shorten life expectancy by four years for those aged over 50. Using the same risk framework designed to monitor the impact of too much TV, the study calculated just one cigarette could cut 11 minutes from smokers lives - equal to watching 30 minutes of TV.

"These findings suggest that substantial loss of life may be associated with prolonged TV viewing time among Australian adults," the reports authors found. "Because TV viewing is a ubiquitous behaviour that occupies significant portions of adults leisure time, it's effects are significant for overall population health."

VicHealth acting executive manager Irene Venins said the latest research came as no surprise. She said the negative impacts of prolonged periods sitting at a desk at work were well documented and the would be no different at home.

"The proliferation of computers around the office have contributed to prolonged sitting , which in turn is a key contributor to chronic heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis."

Ms Venins said Australians should engage in a minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity a day, or face the consequences down the track. "It's time to stand up for our health," she said.