Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Statins 'may cut dementia risk'

Rates of dementia are predicted to soar

Scientists have found further evidence that taking commonly used cholesterol- lowering statins may protect against dementia and memory loss.

The study, published in Neurology, found that

statins - normally taken to reduce heart disease risk - may cut the risk of dementia by half.

The five-year project examined 1,674 Mexican Americans aged 60 and over at heightened risk of dementia.

The Alzheimer's Research Trust said the research is "encouraging".

A quarter of the patients took a statin, and in total 130 went on to develop dementia.

The jury is still out on how effective they are, but this study adds to growing evidence that they may have some benefits
Dr Clive Ballard
Alzheimer's Society

Once the researchers had taken account of other risk factors, including education, smoking, and diabetes, they calculated that those who took statins had an approximately 50% lower risk of developing dementia.

The study comes hot on the heels of separate research which suggests that drugs to reduce blood pressure can also cut the risk of dementia.

It is estimated that 4 million people in England and Wales alone currently take statins.

Lead researcher Professor Mary Haan, of the University of Michigan, said:

"The bottom line is that if a person takes statins over a course of about five to seven years, it reduces the risk of dementia by half, and that's a really big change."

Statins help to reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering levels of cholesterol which clog up the blood vessels.

It is thought that a poor supply of blood to the brain may be one factor which promotes the development of dementia.

Therefore, if statins help keep the blood vessels healthy, and blood flowing freely to the brain, they may help protect against the disease.

However, it is still not clear exactly how statins work on the biochemical pathways involved in dementia.

Professor Haan said one possibility is that statins may help to reduce levels of the hormone insulin, which have also been implicated in the development of dementia.

'Encouraging' results

Rebecca Wood, of the Alzheimer's Research Trust, described the research as "encouraging".

However, she said:

"People should not take statins unless medically advised to do as, as side-effects can be unpleasant.

"We need much more research into this possible prevention for dementia."

Dr Clive Ballard, of the Alzheimer's Society, said statins were increasingly being touted as a potential cure for dementia.

He said:

"The jury is still out on how effective they are, but this study adds to growing evidence that they may have some benefits.

"All drugs have some side-effects so it is important to seek professional advice about medication."

It is estimated that 700,000 people in the UK live with Alzheimers'. The number is expected to double within a generation as the average age of the population rises.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Clear obesity gene link 'found'

Obese person
Scientists have found a clear genetic link to obesity
Scientists say they have identified the clearest genetic link to obesity yet.

They found people with two copies of a "fat" version of a gene had a 70% higher risk of obesity than those with none, and weighed 3kg (6.5lb) more.

The work in Science by the Peninsula Medical School and Oxford University studied data from about 40,000 people.

The findings suggest that although improving lifestyle is key to reducing obesity, some people may find it harder to lose weight because of their genes.

The typical message has been that if you are overweight it is due to sloth and gluttony and it is your fault
Professor Andrew Hattersley

Half of white Europeans carry one copy of the variant and one in six has two copies, experts estimate.

The authors say their work, funded by the Wellcome Trust, could improve understanding of obesity and eventually help prevent it, as well as an illness it is linked to.

Genome differences

Obesity is associated with an increased risk of type two diabetes, and the investigators first identified the FTO gene when looking for differences between the genomes of people with type two diabetes and people without diabetes.

People with type two diabetes were more likely to have a particular variant of the FTO gene, which was also shown to be linked to increased body weight.

The variant making people fatter differed from the other version of the FTO gene by a single mutation in the DNA sequence.

Case studies
Sarah Collyer (pictured left) has no copies of the variant of FTO, while Rebecca Endicott (pictured right) has two copies
I've always got a fridge full of chocolate or cakes and people ask how I can eat all that and still stay slim
Sarah Collyer

I've never been able to get off that last bit of weight, I've always been a bit heavier no matter what I eat
Rebecca Endicott
Both took part in the study

The team then looked at other studies involving 40,000 people searching for this FTO mutation, and confirmed that it was associated with body weight.

People carrying one copy of the "fat" FTO variant had a 30% increased risk of being obese compared to a person with no copies of that version.

Those carrying two copies of the variant had a 70% increased risk of being obese, and were on average 3kg (6.6lb) heavier than a similar person with no copies.

Professor Andrew Hattersley of the Peninsula Medical School said this could explain why two people can seem to eat the same things and do the same amount of exercise yet one may struggle to lose weight more than the other.

He said: "The typical message has been that if you are overweight it is due to sloth and gluttony and it is your fault.

"This work is suggesting that there is also a genetic component."

And he said although a 3kg difference in weight sounds relatively small, it is enough to make a big change in the risks of obesity.

Improving treatment

Dr Sadaf Farooqi of the Department of Clinical Biochemistry at the University of Cambridge said: "This study is important because it has yielded evidence for the first obesity susceptibility gene.

"Understanding the genetic susceptibility to weight gain will make an important contribution to the prevention and treatment of obesity."

The team does not yet know exactly what the FTO gene does or how the different variants work to influence body weight.

But they hope further research to understand the gene may lead to the unravelling of the basic biology of obesity.

Dr Mark Walport, director of the Wellcome Trust, said this could have very helpful consequences for public health as about one in six white Europeans carried two copies of the variant.

"Obesity is one of the most challenging problems for public health in the UK," he said.

"The discovery of a gene that influences the development of obesity in the general population provides a new tool for understanding how some people appear to gain weight more easily than others."

Obesity gene 'affects appetite'

Bathroom scales
Rates of obesity are on the rise

Children carrying the first gene that has been clearly linked to obesity find it harder than others to tell when they are full, London-based researchers say.

They studied over 3,000 children to see whether the FTO gene impacts on the ability to burn calories or appetite.

The researchers found those with copies of the gene's risky variant were less likely to have their appetite "switched off" when they should be full.

The study is published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

FTO is the first common gene to be linked to obesity in Caucasian populations.

Previous studies have shown that adults with two copies of the higher risk version of the gene are on average 3kg (6lb 10oz) heavier, and those with a single copy are on average 1.5kg heavier, than those without the gene.

We are looking at a thousand-piece jigsaw and we have shown how the first two pieces fit together
Dr David Haslam
National Obesity Forum

The researchers, from University College London and the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, set out to learn more about the way the gene works.

They tested whether children aged eight to 11 carrying the higher risk gene variation had an altered appetite through height, weight and waist circumference measurements, and a questionnaire which asked parents about their child's eating habits.

They found that children with the higher risk version of the gene tended to overeat and to struggle to recognise when they were full.

The effect of the gene on appetite was the same regardless of age, sex, socio-economic background and body mass index.

Other genes

Prof Jane Wardle explains the research into FTO and obesity

Lead researcher Professor Jane Wardle said: "It is not simply the case that people who carry the risky variant of this gene automatically become overweight, but they are more susceptible to overeating.

"This makes them significantly more vulnerable to the modern environment which confronts all of us with large portion sizes and limitless opportunities to eat."

However, Professor Wardle said the effect of the gene in isolation was relatively small.

She said it was likely that many genes contributed to obesity and appetite, each making a small contribution, but together creating a substantial effect.

Dr David Haslam, clinical director of the National Obesity Forum, said the research was "very interesting".

However, he said:

"We are looking at a thousand-piece jigsaw and we have shown how the first two pieces fit together.

"It is a step in the right direction, but what we don't want to say is 'we have got the gene for obesity, therefore we can cure it' - that is not going to happen for many years to come."

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Google 15 - Four pounds increase in 4 days!!

Sunday: Surprised by weight gain two days after the CRABS Curry (+3000 calories max.) on Friday night. I'd expect to have put on max. 1 pound - not 4 pounds (Saturday) and 3 pounds (today). Must be water retention (3 pints lager = 2kgs = 4 pounds appox.)?!

Still I've lost 1.5 pounds on moving average weight change v one week ago - well above new target of 1 pound per week.

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Trans-fats banned in California

Trans-fats are used in many fried and baked foods

California has become the first US state to ban restaurants and food retailers from using trans-fats, which are linked to coronary heart disease.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said the new legislation, which will take effect in 2010, represented a "strong step toward creating a healthier future".

Violations will incur fines of between $25 (£13) and $1,000 (£502).

Trans-fats are chemically altered vegetable oils, used to give processed foods a longer shelf-life.

Some cities, like New York City, Philadelphia and Seattle, have already banned the fats. Many food makers and restaurant chains have also been experimenting with replacements for oils and foods that contain them.

'Tremendous benefit'

Trans-fats are produced artificially in a process called hydrogenation which turns liquid oil into solid fat.

They can be used for frying or baking, or put into processed foods and ready-made mixes for cakes and drinks like hot chocolate.

Trans-fats are used because they are cheap, add bulk to products, have a neutral flavour and give products a long shelf-life. They have no nutritional value.

They are partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, turning oily foods into semi-solid foods
Used to extend shelf life of products
Put into pastries, cakes, margarine and some fast foods
Can raise levels of "bad" cholesterol
Even a small reduction in consumption can cut heart disease
They have no nutritional benefit
The US Food and Drug Administration estimates that on average, Americans eat 4.7lb (2.14kg) of trans-fats each year.

A review by the New England Journal of Medicine in 2006 concluded that there was a strong connection between the consumption of trans-fats and coronary heart disease. It found they boosted "bad" cholesterol levels in the body.

The review said that eliminating artificial trans-fats from the food supply could prevent between six and 19% of heart attacks and related deaths each year.

The legislation signed by Mr Schwarzenegger will ban from 1 January 2010 the use of trans-fats in oil, shortening and margarine used in spreads or for frying.

The president of the California Academy of Family Physicians, Jeffrey Luther, said that the law,

"when it finally takes effect, will be a tremendous benefit", adding that there was no safe level of consumption, as with cigarettes.

The California Restaurant Association opposed the ban, but a spokesman said that it had no plans to challenge it in the courts, in part because some restaurants have already begun to phase out trans-fats to satisfy customers.

Could water really have a memory?

By Simon Singh

Glass of water
The trial appeared to back the theory of homeopathy
The news that the number of prescriptions for homeopathic medicines written by GPs in England has nearly halved in just two years coincides with the 20th anniversary of a seminal scientific paper on the subject.

Twenty years ago, in the summer of 1988, the science world was rocked by one of the most controversial research papers ever published in the highly-respected journal Nature.

According to a charismatic French scientist named Jacques Benveniste, pure water could somehow remember what it had previously contained.

Benveniste had started with a substance that caused an allergic reaction, he diluted it over and over again until there was nothing left except water, and then he observed that the pure water still managed to trigger an allergic reaction when it was added to living cells.

If the experiment was correct then it would mean rewriting the laws of physics and chemistry.

Moreover, the research would have a major impact on the credibility of homeopathy, because it is a form of alternative medicine that relies on remedies made by diluting the key curative ingredient over and over again until that ingredient has disappeared.

Even Benveniste was shocked by the implications of his own work.

"It was like shaking your car keys in the Seine at Paris and then discovering that water taken from the mouth of the river would start your car!"

Supernatural powers

John Maddox, editor of Nature, realised that Benveniste's research would be controversial, so it was accompanied by a disclaimer similar to one that had been run when he published research about Uri Geller's supposed supernatural powers.

It said: "Editorial reservation: Readers of this article may share the incredulity of the many referees ... Nature has therefore arranged for independent investigators to observe repetitions of the experiments."

The investigation team was led by Maddox himself, and he was joined by chemist Walter Stewart and James Randi, a magician, who had a reputation for debunking extraordinary claims.

Homeopathy is still not understood, however his efforts started a new era of rigorous scientific investigation of the field
Alex Tournier, of the Homeopathy Research Institute

Unfortunately for Benveniste, the investigators soon discovered that the results in his laboratory were unreliable.

The three of them went on to publish a report explaining how Benveniste's assistants were being subconsciously selective in the way that they interpreted their data.

They said: "We believe that experimental data have been uncritically assessed and their imperfections inadequately reported."

Benvensiste gradually moved out of academia as a result of the Nature debacle, but right up to his death in 2004 he maintained that his research was valid and that he was being ignored by a blinkered scientific establishment.

Twenty years after his research was published, perhaps now is the ideal time to asses his long-term impact on the debate surrounding ultra-dilute solutions and homeopathy.

Was he an unrecognized genius who was ahead of his time or was he a deluded scientist who failed to see that his research deeply flawed?

First of all, it is worth noting that

there have been many attempts to reproduce Benveniste's experiments - occasionally there are positive results, but they are neither consistent nor convincing, and in any case these are countered by several negative results.

For example, the BBC science series Horizon attempted to test Benveniste's claims in 2002, and the conclusion was announced by Professor Martin Bland, of St George's Hospital Medical School.

He said: "There's absolutely no evidence at all to say that there is any difference between the solution that started off as pure water and the solution that started off with the histamine [an allergen]."


Similarly, Benveniste started a spin-off company called DigiBio, which claimed that water could not only have a memory, but that this memory could be digitized, transmitted via email and reintroduced into another sample of water, which in turn could have an impact on living cells.

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) tested DigiBio's claim and came to the following conclusion: "Our team found no replicable effects from digital signals."

Nevertheless, Benveniste's research continues to be very influential among many homeopaths, such as Alex Tournier, the founding director of the Homeopathy Research Institute.

He said: "Benveniste was a very inspiring and dedicated scientist, who at the very apogee of his career at the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research, was ready to put his reputation on the line to report a phenomenon he didn't understand: homeopathic dilutions.

"Homeopathy is still not understood, however his efforts started a new era of rigorous scientific investigation of the field."

Other homeopaths are convinced by Benveniste's idea of digital homeopathy and are even willing to sell such remedies over the internet.

Some might argue that, as there are over 200 clinical trials, but still no convincing evidence that homeopathy is effective for treating any condition, the idea that digitized homeopathy can help patients is fanciful.

But for $1,000 you could go online and buy yourself a digital homeopathy software kit and start treating yourself and others today.

Serious question marks remain over the Benveniste paper, but what is not in doubt is that its influence is still powerful and profound 20 years on.

Simon Singh is the co-author of 'Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial'.

Pittsburgh cancer center warns of cell phone risks

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The head of a prominent cancer research institute issued an unprecedented warning to his faculty and staff Wednesday:

Limit cell phone use because of the possible risk of cancer.

The warning from Dr. Ronald B. Herberman, director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, is contrary to numerous studies that don't find a link between cancer and cell phone use, and a public lack of worry by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Herberman is

basing his alarm on early unpublished data. He says it takes too long to get answers from science and he believes people should take action now — especially when it comes to children.

"Really at the heart of my concern is that we shouldn't wait for a definitive study to come out, but err on the side of being safe rather than sorry later,"
Herberman said.

No other major academic cancer research institutions have sounded such an alarm about cell phone use. But Herberman's advice is sure to raise concern among many cell phone users and especially parents.

In the memo he sent to about 3,000 faculty and staff Wednesday, he says

children should use cell phones only for emergencies because their brains are still developing.

Adults should keep the phone away from the head and use the speakerphone or a wireless headset, he says. He even warns against using cell phones in public places like a bus because it exposes others to the phone's electromagnetic fields.

The issue that concerns some scientists — though nowhere near a consensus — is electromagnetic radiation, especially its possible effects on children. It is not a major topic in conferences of brain specialists.

A 2008 University of Utah analysis looked at nine studies — including some Herberman cites — with thousands of brain tumor patients and concludes "we found no overall increased risk of brain tumors among cellular phone users. The potential elevated risk of brain tumors after long-term cellular phone use awaits confirmation by future studies."

Studies last year in France and Norway concluded the same thing.

"If there is a risk from these products — and at this point we do not know that there is — it is probably very small," the Food and Drug Administration says on an agency Web site.

Still, Herberman cites a

"growing body of literature linking long-term cell phone use to possible adverse health effects including cancer."

"Although the evidence is still controversial, I am convinced that there are sufficient data to warrant issuing an advisory to share some precautionary advice on cell phone use,"
he wrote in his memo.

A driving force behind the memo was Devra Lee Davis, the director of the university's center for environmental oncology.

"The question is do you want to play Russian roulette with your brain," she said in an interview from her cell phone while using the hands-free speaker phone as recommended. "I don't know that cell phones are dangerous. But I don't know that they are safe."

Of concern are the still unknown effects of more than a decade of cell phone use, with some studies raising alarms, said Davis, a former health adviser in the Clinton Administration.

She said 20 different groups have endorsed the advice the Pittsburgh cancer institute gave, and authorities in England, France and India have cautioned children's use of cell phones.

Herberman and Davis point to a massive ongoing research project known as

Interphone, involving scientists in 13 nations, mostly in Europe. Results already published in peer-reviewed journals from this project aren't so alarming, but Herberman is citing work not yet published.

The published research focuses on more than 5,000 cases of brain tumors. The National Research Council in the U.S., which isn't participating in the Interphone project, reported in January that the brain tumor research had "selection bias." That means it relied on people with cancer to remember how often they used cell phones. It is not considered the most accurate research approach.

The largest published study, which appeared in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute in 2006, tracked 420,000 Danish cell phone users, including thousands that had used the phones for more than 10 years. It found no increased risk of cancer among those using cell phones.

A French study based on Interphone research and published in 2007 concluded that regular cell phone users had "no significant increased risk" for three major types of nervous system tumors. It did note, however, that there was "the possibility of an increased risk among the heaviest users" for one type of brain tumor, but that needs to be verified in future research.

Earlier research also has found no connection.

Joshua E. Muscat of Penn State University, who has studied cancer and cell phones in other research projects partly funded by the cell phone industry, said

there are at least a dozen studies that have found no cancer-cell phone link. He said a Swedish study cited by Herberman as support for his warning was biased and flawed.

"We certainly don't know of any mechanism by which radiofrequency exposure would cause a cancerous effect in cells. We just don't know this might possibly occur," Muscat said.

Cell phones emit radiofrequency energy, a type of radiation that is a form of electromagnetic radiation, according to the National Cancer Institute. Though studies are being done to see if there is a link between it and tumors of the brain and central nervous system, there is no definitive link between the two, the institute says on its Web site.

"By all means, if a person feels compelled that they should take precautions in reducing the amount of electromagnetic radio waves through their bodies, by all means they should do so," said Dan Catena, a spokesman for the American Cancer Society.

"But at the same time, we have to remember there's no conclusive evidence that links cell phones to cancer, whether it's brain tumors or other forms of cancer."

Joe Farren, a spokesman for the CTIA-The Wireless Association, a trade group for the wireless industry, said the group believes

there is a risk of misinforming the public if science isn't used as the ultimate guide on the issue.

"When you look at the overwhelming majority of studies that have been peer reviewed and published in scientific journals around the world, you'll find no relationship between wireless usage and adverse health affects,"
Farren said.

Frank Barnes, who chaired the January report from the National Research Council, said Wednesday that "the jury is out" on how hazardous long-term cell phone use might be.

Speaking from his cell phone, the professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Colorado at Boulder said he takes no special precautions in his own phone use. And he offered no specific advice to people worried about the matter.

It's up to each individual to decide what if anything to do. If people use a cell phone instead of having a land line, "that may very well be reasonable for them," he said.

Susan Juffe, a 58-year-old Pittsburgh special education teacher, heard about Herberman's cell phone advice on the radio earlier in the day.

"Now, I'm worried. It's scary," she said.

She says she'll think twice about allowing her 10-year-old daughter Jayne to use the cell phone.

"I don't want to get it (brain cancer) and I certainly don't want you to get it," she explained to her daughter.

Sara Loughran, a 24-year-old doctoral student at the University of Pittsburgh, sat in a bus stop Wednesday chatting on her cell phone with her mother. She also had heard the news earlier in the day, but was not as concerned.

"I think if they gave me specific numbers and specific information and it was scary enough, I would be concerned," Loughran said, planning to call her mother again in a matter of minutes. "Without specific numbers, it's too vague to get me worked up."

Jennifer Yates reported from Pittsburgh. Science Writer Seth Borenstein reported from Washington. Reporter Ramit Plushnick-Masti contributed from Pittsburgh and Science Writer Malcolm Ritter contributed from New York.

We have a drinking problem, and it makes oil seem cheap

It is an astonishing kind of stupidity that sees us duped into paying for bottles of water - stuff that flows free out of taps

A half-litre bottle of water in your average sandwich chain, now costs 80p. That's around four times the price of oil.
And it's not like you've got an oil tap in your own kitchen. If only there were some godforsaken country we could invade in the adorably misguided belief that it would bring the price of this stuff down.

And yet - perhaps because bottling water is precisely the sort of business that would entrance Dick Cheney - we've yet to alight on the killing fields that would get us out of this mess. Not that

bottled water giants such as NestlĂ© and Coca-Cola would class it as a mess, what with the global industry being worth £30bn and rising.
For the rest of us, I'm afraid it's time to swallow the bottled water lecture again. Come on:
more of it is being sold than beer - you and I know that can't be right.

more ...

Fat friends 'can boost your size'

Overweight family
Being overweight can run in the family

People are subconsciously influenced by the weight of those around them - so fat friends can cause someone to put on weight too, researchers suggest.

An international team, including University of Warwick experts, dubbed it

"imitative obesity" - or "keeping up with the Joneses" on calories.

Their study, presented to a conference in the US, looked at data on 27,000 people from across Europe.

But one expert said the causes for the rise in obesity were much more complex.

Consumption of calories has gone up but that does not tell us why people are eating more
Professor Andrew Oswald, University of Warwick

The work, by scientists at the University of Warwick, Dartmouth College, and the University of Leuven, is being presented to an economics conference in Cambridge Massachusetts.

They suggest

choices about appearance, on which decisions such as job offers or being deemed attractive are based, are determined by the choices others around you make.

So, if people around you are fat, it is permissible for you to be fat too.

It found

nearly half of European women feel overweight, while just under a third of men felt the same.


Professor Andrew Oswald at the University of Warwick, who worked on the study, said: "Consumption of calories has gone up but that does not tell us why people are eating more.

"Some have argued that obesity has been produced by cheaper food, but if fatness is a response to greater purchasing power, why do we routinely observe that rich people are thinner than poor people?"

He said: "A lot of research into obesity, which has emphasised sedentary lifestyles or human biology or fast-food, has missed the key point.

"Rising obesity needs to be thought of as a sociological phenomenon not a physiological one.

"People are influenced by relative comparisons, and norms have changed and are still changing."

But Dr David Haslam, clinical director of the National Obesity Forum, said: "It's a bit cheeky to pin it on sociological influences - there's more to it than that.

"If you are surrounded by people, whether that's friends or within the family home, who are overweight, you are sharing the same environment where there is likely to be an abundance of the wrong kind of foods."

Google 15 - CRABS Curry

great curry in Lymington with CRABS last night.

Friday, 25 July 2008

'Wrong bras' can damage breasts

Women exercising
Breasts can move several inches during exercise

Women who wear the wrong kind of bra could be damaging their breasts, researchers have warned.

The breast biomechanics team at the University of Portsmouth said poor support could lead to fragile ligaments in the breast being stretched.

They said that during exercise, breasts move up to 21cm (8.26inches), up and down, in and out and side to side - but most bras just limit vertical movement.

And they warned crop-top sports bras did not give enough support.

Many women don't want to be seen as too small or too big
Wendy Hedger, University of Portsmouth

The research team has tested about 50 bra designs on hundreds of women during the past three years.

Wendy Hedger, one of the scientists who carried out the work, said: "Many women have strong preferences for certain styles of bra and won't buy anything else.

"They won't even look at anything that doesn't look like the sort of bra they are used to wearing.

"In sports bras, for example, many women won't buy a bra that resembles their everyday bra and does up at the back - they think if it can't be pulled over their heads like a crop top, then it's not a real sports bra.

"But this is not true and many sports bras do up at the back in the same way as a traditional bra and do a very good job of supporting women."

'Social stigma'

She added that habit also affects the bras women choose for everyday wear, with the wrong choices potentially causing breast pain or discomfort.

Ms Hedger added: "There's a social stigma about certain sizes. Many women don't want to be seen as too small or too big and buy a bra that doesn't fit well in order to be what they consider to be a normal size.

"And many other women are unaware that they are wearing a badly-fitting bra or unknowingly wear the wrong bra size because they are routinely being sold ill-fitting bras.

"Some women forget that their shape and size change and they might have to go through several changes in bra size over their lifetime, especially after breastfeeding and the menopause."

On a roll! In less than 3 weeks I've lost 3 pounds (24.6 pounds left today, 27.6 pounds left on 7th July). It seems swopping a meal a day for an apple or banana (500 cals per day reduction) three or four days a week with a bi-daily 30 minute walk / run with Jazzie - means I am well over my 0.5 pounds weight loss per week target.

New target: 1 pound a week loss (except holidays).

Holiday coming up in Ireland for a week so suppose I'll put on a couple of pounds!

Yesterday was a 'break' day: Alpen Luxury (includes yummy fruit) breakfast, Burger King Double Cheesepounder (with Dominic after his driving lesson) in Bournemouth Square Gardens. Half a pizza+wine for dinner (guessing 2100 calories total). So not much loss today.

With Google 15 I DO NOT measure calories. Next days diet is based on the previous days Google 15 result. Its an evidence based diet. Google 15 gives a moving average so daily scale weight increases/decreases are 'smeared'.

Over 20 years ago I undertook a strict calorie counting diet (i think it was 1500 cals a day??) and lost ~2 stone in 4 months (1.75 pounds a week). I got down to 9st 12 pounds (I remember it well!) on a Greek holiday with Sharon, Sue and Colin. My BMI then was 21.6 (maths: 138/2.204/(67"x2.54/100) squared = 62.61kg/2.893 = 21.64). Shame I didn't stay that weight! Because a BMI around 21-22 is probably optimal for health (or so the science suggests).

Then I was also measuring my waist circumference which correlated to my weight / BMI. I think I'll buy this BMI v Circumference chart.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Google 15. New Target: One week ago -1.0, Yesterday -0.2 pounds or I diet

Steak & Kidney pie for lunch, Apple for dinner last night - did the trick!
New target! Moving Average Weight change:
One week ago -1.0 (was -0.5), Yesterday -0.2 (was -0.1) pounds
for 3 full meals a day; otherwise 2 full meals and an apple / banana.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Google 15 - over target

my target is 0.5 pounds "one week ago" weight loss. This week makes up for the other weeks when progress has been negligible. Only eating 3 apples on Sunday 20th helped ... after a bowl of crisp and loads of Sharons' coronation chicken at Viv and Andys' waiting for Katie and Geoff to arrive from France via USA - the previous day.

Because I'm -1 pound less than a week ago (target min. 0.5 pound) and 0.3 pound less than yesterday (target 0.1 pound) I will not diet tomorrow!!

The Google 15 weight control method means that success is rewarded with 'days off'.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Public heart shock scheme success

Emma Wilkinson
Health reporter, BBC News

NHS defibrillator
Defibrillators are commonly available in airports and train stations

A scheme to provide defibrillators in public places in England and Wales should be extended, researchers say.

A total of 132 people were saved between 1999 and 2005 because they could be quickly "shocked" at the scene when their hearts stopped beating.

The Cardiff University researchers said the numbers may seem small, but it was highly unlikely any would have survived without the devices being on hand.

The British Heart Foundation welcomed the findings.

The prognosis for people who have a cardiac arrest outside hospital is generally very poor.

Sudden cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death in adults and the most common cause is heart disease.

If you have a defibrillator you can give a shock very quickly and it doesn't matter who gives it
Dr Michael Colquhoun, study leader

The British Heart Foundation began to fund public defibrillators in the 1990s but the scheme expanded in 1999 when the government placed 700 devices in high-risk places.

It is now commonplace for airports, train stations and sports centres to have defibrillators on site.

The devices are also issued to volunteers trained as "community first responders" as they may be able to reach victims faster than conventional ambulance crews.

Similar schemes exist in Northern Ireland and the Scottish Executive is looking at providing the devices after a government committee recently recommended their use.


Dr Michael Colquhoun and colleagues found

shocks were given to 735 victims over the six-year period - either by a member of the public or trained volunteers.

Return of circulation was achieved in a third of them with 18% surviving, their report in the journal Resuscitation showed.

If the device was immediately available on site, 30% of victims were saved.

The chances of success were also much higher if the cardiac arrest was witnessed by someone and resuscitation with CPR was done straightaway.

Dr Colquhoun said the figures may seem small but the prognosis after a cardiac arrest is poor.

"If you have a defibrillator you can give a shock very quickly and it doesn't matter who gives it - anyone can press the buttons, they are very user friendly.

"This is something the government really did get right.

"No other country has the same network of defibrillators."

He said the scheme had been particularly successful in leisure centres where there was a high rate of survival after someone had been shocked at the scene.

Colin Elding, chest pain programme manager for the British Heart Foundation said they had been funding public defibrillators and training people to use them for many years.

"This research shows that many people who survive a sudden cardiac arrest in the community have often received early defibrillation using a public access defibrillator administered by a trained responder," he added.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Google 15

Healthy Weight, Healthy Lives A Cross Government Strategy for England

The government’s new ambition on excess weight, announced in the Comprehensive Spending Review 2007 is to be the first major country: to reverse the rising tide of obesity and overweight in the population, by ensuring that all individuals are able to maintain a healthy weight.

Our ambition is to be the first major nation to reverse the rising tide of obesity and overweight in the population by ensuring that everyone is able to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Our initial focus will be on children: by 2020, we aim to reduce the proportion of overweight and obese children to 2000 levels.

Britain is in the grip of an epidemic. Almost two-thirds of adults and a third of children are either overweight or obese,1 and work by the Government Office for Science’s Foresight2 programme suggests that, without clear action, these figures will rise to almost nine in ten adults and two-thirds of children by 2050. This matters because of the severe impact being overweight or obese can have on an individual’s health – both are associated with an increasing risk of diabetes, cancer, and heart and liver disease among others – and the risks get worse the more overweight people become. They matter because of the pressure such illnesses put on families, the NHS and society more broadly, with overall costs to society forecast to reach £50 billion per year by 2050 on current trends.

At the core of the problem is an imbalance between ‘energy in’ – what is consumed through eating – and ‘energy out’ – what is used by the body, including energy used through physical activity.

Why do these trends matter? Both being obese and being overweight increase the risk of a range of diseases that can have a significant health impact on individuals, although the risks rise with BMI* and so are greater for the obese:
• 10 per cent of all cancer deaths among nonsmokers
are related to obesity5
• the risk of Coronary Artery Disease increased
3.6 times for each unit increase in BMI5
• 85 per cent of hypertension is associated with a BMI greater than 255
• the risk of developing type 2 diabetes is about 20 times greater for people who are very obese (BMI over 35), compared to individuals with a BMI of between 18 and 256
• up to 90 per cent of people who are obese have fatty liver. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is projected to be the leading cause of cirrhosis in the next generation7
• health effects of excess weight are increasingly apparent even in children; the incidence of both type 2 diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease used to be rare in children, but is increasing8
• obesity in pregnancy is associated with increased risks of complications for both mother and baby
• social stigmatisation and bullying are common and can, in some cases, lead to depression and other mental health conditions

These diseases ultimately curtail life expectancy.
Severely obese individuals are likely to die on average 11 years earlier (13 years for a severely obese man between 20 and 30 years of age) than those with a healthy weight, comparable to, and in some cases worse than, the reduction in life expectancy from smoking.

Download the report (pdf)

More info..

Friday, 11 July 2008

Beating the bulge (again)

Beating the bulge (again)
By Nick Triggle
Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 January 2008
Health reporter, BBC News

Overweight men
Projects to tackle obesity have been scrapped
Everyone is agreed that obesity is one of the greatest challenges facing the country.

Nearly a quarter of adults are obese after rates rose by 50% in the last decade.

The increases among children have been even worse.

The government has recognised that the problem needs to be tackled by drawing up an obesity strategy, which will be published on Wednesday.

But this is far from the first time ministers have tried to tackle the nation's expanding waistlines. So what has gone wrong?

Back in 1992, the Tories published a white paper, Health of the Nation, which set a number of targets to tackle obesity.

These were subsequently dropped by Labour after it came into power in 1997.

But the Blair government was back worrying about eating habits with its own public health white paper in 2004.


Choosing Health set out a range of measures, including food labelling, a crackdown on TV junk food advertising and school-based campaigns to get children exercising and eating healthily.

But the key problem, according to public health experts who warmly welcomed the proposals at the time, was that the government has not kept promises over money.

The 2004 white paper said public health chiefs would get an extra £300m over the following two years.

A snapshot survey by the Faculty of Public Health, which represents public health specialists, has shown that as little as 40% of this money actually reached the front line.

Responding to the challenge requires the whole of government to work together
Dr Tim Crayford, of the Association of Directors of Public Health

Professor Chris Drinkwater, a public health expert at the NHS Alliance, which represents health professionals working outside hospitals, said: "The problem is that the funds were not ring-fenced and became a soft option when the NHS was having problems with deficits."

The result has been that much of what was envisaged at the time has not materialised.

Promised improvements to the cycle network have not been carried out, while the sale of school playing fields has continued.

The effect is that the government will almost certainly miss its target to halt the year-on-year rise in childhood obesity by 2010.

In fact, ministers are facing an uphill struggle to even encourage the public to adopt healthier lifestyles.


Despite gradual improvements in recent years, over two thirds of adults are not doing the recommended five 30-minute sessions of exercise a week.

Meanwhile, the five-a-day fruit and vegetable intake is more like three-a-day for most.

And even where targets were set and hit, in the case of health trainers, it has required outside investment.

The aim was to appoint 1,200 of the lifestyle coaches by March last year, but figures show nearly half of them have been employed by the army and prison service.

Professor Alan Maryon-Davis, president of the Faculty of Public Health, said the problems are being worsened by cuts in the number of public health specialists.

In the last four years the number of consultant and director posts in the NHS has been reduced by over a quarter, he said.

"These are the people who would be co-ordinating local approaches - the schools sports programmes, the organised walks.

"It is things such as this that are essential to tackling obesity, but without the public health specialists in place they end up being cut."

Dr Tim Crayford, president of the Association of Directors of Public Health, agrees. "Responding to the challenge requires the whole of government to work together. It involves transport, education and health. But unfortunately it has been losing out to other priorities."