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Showing posts from August, 2014

Obesity, depression, phobia and genes

The prevalence of clinical depression is about one third higher among obese versus non-obese subjects and there is conflicting evidence as to whether it is depression that brings on obesity or the reverse, where obesity brings on depression. To study this conundrum, a recent research project examined data from a longitudinal study of 18, 558 British individuals born in 1958[1]. This cohort was followed up at 7, 11, 16, 23, 33, 42, 45 and 50 years. Subjects were rated as underweight, normal weight over weight or obese. Those that were underweight had 1.3 to 2.3 times the risk of being depressed compared to those of normal weight. There was no evidence of a tendency toward depression among the overweight but among the obese, the risks of depression were between 1.5 and 2.3 times that of normal weight subjects. The data were then examined to see how either one of the conditions (obesity or depression), in prior years influenced the likelihood of the other condition subsequently developin…

The Human Microbiome ~ Myth and mystery

In the 1990’s, antioxidants were the big fashion in food and health. These antioxidants were mainly vitamins (C and E), pre-vitamins (beta-carotene) and plant constituents of various kinds (e.g. coumarin, flavonoids, thymol). Studies showed that rates of cancers across many countries were directly correlated with plasma levels of antioxidants. Laboratory studies showed that the damaging effect of pro-oxidant metals such as copper could be reduced with the addition of antioxidants. Every disease imaginable was included in the antioxidant Klondike. And of course we had the race to the finish culminating in a trial of Chinese smokers (smoking is pro-oxidant) with antioxidant supplements which showed the opposite to what was hoped for - cancer rates were increased! Many other trials were conducted but to date, little evidence exists to support the theory that taking antioxidant supplements reduces any disease risk. Of course that doesn’t bother the health food industry and to some extent …

School lunches: Measure twice - cut once

“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme” Mark Twain
Maureen Ogle, in her book “In meat we trust”, reminds us that school lunches have always been on the menu of food controversies. In 1926, the New York School Board banned frankfurters from school lunches. She writes that: “The board’s lunch director explained that the food was unsuited to students’ nutritional needs” The director went on to say that: “The sausage was so heavy that when children ate it, they neglected to eat green stuff and milk”. And you’ve guessed it – no data were gathered upon which to construct evidence based policy. The director simply looked into his or her heart in search of wisdom. The issue of school lunches lingers on and whilst I want to end on a positive note, I will cite three studies which all show that poorly informed or misinformed interventions in food choice to improve nutritional balance in school lunches can back fire.
Case 1. A group from Tufts University examined the effect of three year…