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Showing posts from June, 2013

Fat spat: Scientists argue over obesity risks

I have long argued that dissent is the oxygen of science and that whereas unanimity of opinion is fine for political parties and religious organisations, it has no place in science. Indeed, I have always held the view that the unexpected finding in science is its jewel. It is not a view that is widely held since science tends to be protective of its theories and dislikes having its conventional wisdom challenged. Right now, a major row has broken out over the true health risks of being moderately overweight. There are two dimensions to this squabble, the scientific dimension and the policy dimension. Let’s start with the science.
Katherine Flegal is a scientist at the US National Center for Health Statistics and she specialises in the study of the obesity epidemic in the US. In January of this year, Flegal and her colleagues published a paper in the Journal of The American Medical Association[1] in which she showed that persons who were overweight but not obese, had a statistically low…

Economics and infant malnutrition

At the recent G8 Summit on the shores of Lough Erne here in Ireland, a new declaration was signed to chase the big multi nationals for a fairer share of their sales to be paid as tax. Google generated£11.5bn in profits in the UK and only paid £10m in tax during that period. In the UK in 2011, Apple Sales International generated UK sales valued at $22bn but paid only $10m in tax. In the week before the G8 summit the NGO Save the Children issue an in-depth report also looking at global economic development but with a focus on malnutrition[1]. The main conclusion of this report is that if today’s infants are not properly nourished, the global economic loss in 2030, when these infants reach working age, will be $125 billion.
The first part of this report deals with what is called the “demographic dividend” which is characterised by an increase in the ratio of the population available for work versus the those who cant work because they are too young or too old. It is expected that due to r…

Vitamin D and Parkinson's Disease

The following is a direct quote from the Mayo Clinic’s website on Parkinson’s disease: “Parkinson's disease is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects your movement. It develops gradually, sometimes starting with a barely noticeable tremor in just one hand. But while tremor may be the most well known sign of Parkinson's disease, the disorder also commonly causes stiffness or slowing of movement. In early stages of Parkinson's disease, your face may show little or no expression, or your arms may not swing when you walk. Your speech may become soft or slurred. Parkinson's disease symptoms worsen as your condition progresses over time. Although Parkinson's disease can't be cured, medications may markedly improve your symptoms. In occasional cases, your doctor may suggest surgery to regulate certain regions of your brain and improve your symptoms”.
A recent paper in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition[1]looked at the role of vitamin D in Par…