Butter is back on the menu

A group of researchers from various top flight UK universities including Cambridge, Oxford and Imperial College, along with Harvard in the US, have undertaken a majorsystematic review and meta-analysis of previous observational and clinical trials on fat intake and health. The news has gone global this last week and the gist, as told by the UK’s Telegraph, has been “No link found between saturated fat and heart disease”.  Saturated fat lovers will likely be relieved and will have better reason to not give up fatty meat, cream or butter to improve health.

The study not only provides no clear evidence that saturated fat is harmful, it also fails to show statistically significant heart protective effects of Omega-3 fats. Like will all syntheses of other studies, some of the more subtle trends in some of the trials or observational studies have been lost. There are also some limitations to the study, such as varying or unknown periods of fat intake, accuracy of questionnaire-derived data, and subjects with differing health or disease statuses.

The UK’s National Health Service, while providing a useful write up of the study (by Bazian), says despite these findings, there’s no need to change UK dietary guidelines which aim to limit saturated fat intake. Have we missed something?

Gluten wreaks havoc with your hormones

A new study published in the journal Hormone Research in Paediatrics confirms that levels of the hormone prolactin in those with coeliac disease decreases after a short course on a gluten free diet. Prolactin’s most recognised role in the body is that of stimulating lactation, although it has over 300 other functions. Increased levels can lead to oestrogen deficiency, anovulatory infertility, disruption of the menstrual cycle, unexpected lactation, loss of libido in women, and erectile dysfunction, plus loss of libido in men. The researchers of the study aimed to assess the prolactin (PRL) levels in newly diagnosed paediatric coeliac disease patients and, if found to be elevated beyond normal ranges (a condition known as hyperprolactinaemia), observe what would happen if they were put on a 6-month long gluten free diet. The results showed that a gluten free diet helped decrease levels of prolactin. More grist for the wheat/gluten free mill!

Fluoride identified as an industrial neurotoxin

In the 2014 journal Lancet Neurology, fluoride is categorised as a newly identified industrial chemical known to cause developmental neurotoxicity in human beings. Neurotoxins are capable of causing widespread brain disorders such as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and learning disabilities — a host of untreatable and often permanently damaging disorders — and yet this particular one is added to drinking water and products such as toothpaste.  However, the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to hear arguments in the fluoride harm case of Nemphos v. Nestle Waters so, in the words of attorney Chris Nidel, “Fluoride providers and promoters are now under the microscope as the Fluoridegate scandal unfolds. In their own publications, dentists warned of a day when fluoride litigation would arrive.”

Are Very Low Calorie Diets the new Holy Grail for diabetics?

Diabetes UK are funding researchers at Newcastle University and the University of Glasgow to the tune of £2.4million for a 5-year study into the effects of Very Low Calorie Diets (VLCD). The study will investigate whether consuming just 800 calories a day, in liquid form only, will put type 2 diabetics into remission.  Critics of VLCD are asking some interesting questions. Namely, is a diet based on calorie counting and physics, as against human biochemistry, doomed to fail? VLCD is not a new concept. It’s been foisted on the overweight and obese for 40 years, but with little demonstrable effect on either the rate of obesity or weight loss.  And as Hannah Sutter notes, how can any approach for diabetics in 2014 not consider the impact of ketosis — when the body switches from burning sugars for energy to using fat, from that stored, as well as the diet — linked to low carbohydrate intake? The study is drawing further fire, because it’s supported by Counterweight, which is owned by the same holding company that owns the Cambridge Diet.  Study participants will receive Cambridge Diet shakes, prompting further criticism about the commercial potential that a ‘new’ diabetic diet could have. 

The spread of GM contamination confirmed

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) have admitted that the levels of genetically modified (GM) material found in internationally traded non-GM food and feed has risen in the past few years. This has caused problems such as the interruption of trade plus and major food losses, which are believed to be the biggest concerns according to Sarah Cahill, Food Safety Officer at the FAO. The FAO survey is the first of its kind and looked at 75 of the 193 member countries. Linseed, rice, maize and papaya are the most common offenders and of the 75 countries involved in the study, none had any policies in place to deal with low levels of GM. The FAO have asked countries to help them assess the safety of GM crops and share any scientific data that they might have.

Modified gut bacteria to beat vitamin A deficiency

The struggle to exert science over nature continues with regards strategies aimed at beating vitamin A deficiency. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have funded new research that promises yet another potential solution. That of creating modified gut bacteria, which possess the ability to produce beta-carotene, the pre-cursor to vitamin A. So far the research has only been carried out using a modified strain of E. coli in mice. However, the research team have shown that the bacteria is able to colonise in the gut of the mice, cross the intestinal barrier and translocate into the body tissues. Professor Loredana Quadro at Rutgers University in the US led the research and said, “If you could get a gut friendly bacteria to live in your gut and colonise it, that was capable of making beta-carotene, then all you would have to do is give people basically one hit of this in the developing world, and if it colonised them then they would be good to go for months or even longer. That could really help to remediate vitamin A deficiency.”

EU Parliament quashes Commission’s nanomaterials proposal – again

After rejecting the proposal of how to define and label nanomaterials last month, the Parliament’s food safety committee again rejected the Commission’s proposed regulation on Wednesday. As with before the reasoning behind the rejection was that it is irrelevant, and exempts food additives that are already on the market. European trade association, FoodDrinkEurope, exerts that there is a need to make a label distinction between the presence of naturally-occurring nanomaterials and those that have been engineered to behave differently than their natural counterparts. Greens MEP Carl Schlyter was surprised that an even weaker proposal than the first had been submitted and believes “Consumers have a right to know and make their own choice.”

UK’s chief scientific adviser: People may starve if not fed GM

On Friday a UK report was published recommending that “dysfunctional” EU regulations should be scrapped so that GM (genetically modified) crops could face the same regulation as conventional ones. Official science advisors support the UK regaining its sovereignty from Brussels so that GM crops can be approved and rolled out all across the UK. In the words of chief scientific adviser Professor Sir Mark Walport, "If we don't use GM the risk is people going unfed."  Despite extensive observations to the contrary, it is again being touted that decades of use of GM crops have revealed no adverse effects. However, not surprisingly, the authors of the report are said to have ties with industry. Claire Robinson, editor at campaign group GMWatch, warns that "their views should be treated with the same scepticism we would apply to any sales pitch".


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