Friday, February 29, 2008

New study shows low-fat diets more likely to reduce risk of heart disease than low-carb diets

Public release date: 29-Feb-2008
[ Print Article | E-mail Article | Close Window ]

Contact: Toranj Marphetia
Medical College of Wisconsin

Low-fat diets are more effective in preserving and promoting a healthy cardiovascular system than low-carbohydrate, Atkins’-like diets, according to a new study by researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.

“Low-carbohydrate diets are significantly higher in total grams of fat, protein, dietary cholesterol and saturated fats than are low-fat diets. While a low-carbohydrate diet may result in weight loss and improvement in blood pressure, similar to a low-fat diet, the higher fat content is ultimately more detrimental to heart health than is the low-fat diet suggested by the American Heart Association,” points out Dr. Phillips.

“The higher fat content of a low-carbohydrate diet may put dieters at an increased risk of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) because low-carbohydrate diets often reduce protection of the endothelium, the thin layer of cells that line the blood vessels of the circulatory system. The reduced production from the endothelium of nitric oxide, a specific chemical, puts the vessel at higher risk of abnormal thickening, greater clotting potential, and cholesterol deposition, all part of the atherosclerosis process,” says Dr. Gutterman.

Over a six-week period, the researchers found reduced flow-mediated dilation in the arm artery in participants who were on the low-carbohydrate diet. Reduced flow-mediated dilation, as measured in this study, is an early indicator of cardiovascular disease. On the other hand, flow-mediated dilation improved significantly in participants on the low-fat diet suggesting a healthier artery which is less prone to developing atherosclerosis.

“We observed a reduction in brachial artery flow-mediated dilation after six weeks of weight loss on a low-carbohydrate, Atkins’-style diet,” Dr. Gutterman says.

Low-carbohydrate diets were also found to have significantly less daily folic acid than low-fat diets. Folic acid is thought to be helpful in reducing the likeliness of heart disease. This protective effect results from the antioxidant property of folic acid and its ability to lower levels of homocysteine, a naturally occurring amino acid that can be dangerous at elevated levels.

The low-carbohydrate diet provided 20 grams of carbohydrates daily and was supplemented with protein and fat content according to the Atkins’ diet recommendations. The low-fat diet provided 30 percent of the calories as fat, and was modeled after the American Heart Association’s recommendations.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Vitamin E May Increase Tuberculosis Risk In Male Smokers With High Vitamin C Intake

ScienceDaily (Feb. 21, 2008) — Six-year vitamin E supplementation increased tuberculosis risk by 72% in male smokers who had high dietary vitamin C intake, but vitamin E had no effect on those who had low dietary vitamin C intake, according to a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition.

Previous studies had suggested that vitamin E might improve the immune system. In animal studies vitamin E seemed to protect against various infections.

As usual, balance is important.

Good Ideas Distract Groups From Generating Great Ideas

I think cooperation is a great thing, but the following article indicates it might sometimes have negative effects.

ScienceDaily (Feb. 21, 2008) — Good ideas can have drawbacks. When information is freely shared, good ideas can stunt innovation by distracting others from pursuing even better ideas, according to Indiana University cognitive scientist Robert Goldstone.
In the "fully connected" group, everyone's work was completely accessible to everyone else -- much like a tight-knit family or small town. In the "locally connected" group, participants primarily were aware of what their neighbors, or the people on either side, were doing. In the "small world" group, participants also were primarily aware of what their neighbors were doing, but they also had a few distant connections that let them send or retrieve good ideas from outside of their neighborhood.

Goldstone found that the fully connected groups performed the best when solving simple problems. Small world groups, however, performed better on more difficult problems. For these problems, the truism "The more information, the better" is not valid.

Kava Linked To Liver Damage, New Evidence Shows

ScienceDaily (Feb. 22, 2008) — Scientists have found new evidence, using innovative techniques, to support the growing body of literature that indicates kava may have a negative effect on the liver. Kava is a plant native to the South Pacific that has been used as a ceremonial beverage in the region for thousands of years, and, more recently, as a natural treatment for medical conditions such as anxiety. In recent years, serious concerns about the dangers of kava and the effects on the liver have resulted in regulatory agencies, such as the US Food and Drug Administration and Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration, banning or restricting the sale of kava and kava products.

I would be interested in a comparison of the effects of kava on people from cultures who have been using it for many generations, compared with others, to see if those whose ancestors used it have evolved mechanisms that protect them. I suspect the reason humans are able to eat caffeine and related chemicals in ratios that would kill a dog or cat is due to our ancestors having chosen to use foods containing them, for their stimulant effects, and evolving metabolic mechanisms to protect themselves.

Special Coating Greatly Improves Solar Cell Performance

A team of Northwestern University researchers has developed a new anode coating strategy that significantly enhances the efficiency of solar energy power conversion.

Women Who Suffered Child Abuse Spend More On Health Care

ScienceDaily (Feb. 22, 2008) — Middle-aged women who suffered physical or sexual abuse as children spend up to one-third more than average in health-care costs, according to a long-term study of more than 3,000 women.

Even decades after the abuse ended, these women used health services at significantly higher rates than did non-abused women, the research found.

Prenatal Exposure To Lead Linked To Obesity In Males

ScienceDaily (Feb. 22, 2008) — Scientists know exposure to low levels of lead can result in learning disabilities, hearing loss, language impairments and vision loss, but a newly discovered side effect may be adult-onset obesity in men, according to a University of Houston professor.

Just what we need, another thing to increase the chances of obesity.

Children Who Do Not Get Enough Sleep Sustain More Injuries

ScienceDaily (Feb. 22, 2008) — Lack of adequate sleep can lead to increased injuries among preschool children, new research shows. This study shows that the average number of injuries during the preschool years is two times higher for children who don’t get enough sleep each day as described by their mothers.

Can We Offset Global Warming By Geoengineering The Climate With Aerosols?

ScienceDaily (Feb. 22, 2008) — Concerned that energy system transformations are proceeding too slowly to avoid risks from dangerous human-induced climate change, many scientists are wondering whether geoengineering (the deliberate change of the Earth's climate) may help counteract global warming.

Every technology has had unexpected consequences.
We might find out to late that we have increased the risk of an earthquake.
I would also be concerned about processes that could cause the sudden release of the sequestered gases in the future, such as an asteroid strike. There was one big enough to get in the newspapers just a few months ago.
A sudden release of carbon dioxide in the ocean would cause a sudden increase in the acidity of the water, causing a massive die-off of shell-forming organisms.

interesting site

This is an interesting web site. I post more comments there than I do on my own blog. Mostly because there is a conversation. Also, a lot more people read it, so I'm not just keeping a high-tech diary there.


January 10, 2008

Northern Hemisphere Temperature Highest Ever

Frances C. Moore

With the record for 2007 now complete, it is clear that temperatures around the world are continuing their upward climb. The global average in 2007 was 14.73 degrees Celsius (58.5 degrees Fahrenheit)—the second warmest year on record, only 0.03 degrees Celsius behind the 2005 maximum. January 2007 was the hottest January ever measured, a full 0.23 degrees Celsius warmer than the previous record. August was also a record for that month and September was the second warmest September recorded.
Although 2007 did not post a new record high, the year stands out as being extremely warm despite several natural factors that usually cool the planet. El Niño conditions in the southern Pacific tend to increase the global average temperature, and yet the second half of 2007 saw the opposite develop—a La Niña, which would usually depress global temperature. This is in stark contrast to conditions in 1998, the third warmest year, when temperatures were boosted around 0.2 degrees Celsius by the strongest El Niño of the century. In addition to the moderate La Niña, solar intensity in 2007 was slightly lower than average because the year was a minimum in the 11-year solar sunspot cycle. The combination of these factors would normally produce cooler temperatures, yet 2007 was still one of the warmest years in human history. This strongly suggests that the warming effect of increased greenhouse gas concentrations is now dwarfing other influences on the Earth’s climate.

This site also has some graphs which help illustrate the situation.
There are links to more graphs at the bottom of the page. Scary to anybody who doesn't have their head in the sand.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Why Perfect Dates Make Lousy Partners;_ylt=AlntdCrYEYMWtzdQbe29qrOs0NUE Tue Feb 12, 10:46 AM ET

The best "catches" in dating land may be the worst choices in the long-run, new research shows.

Popular people who monitor themselves carefully in social situations and thereby appear to be the most socially appropriate are often highly sought after as romantic partners, a study finds, but these people show less satisfaction and commitment in relationships than socially-awkward people.

A good night's sleep reduces childhood obesity risk;_ylt=Ajqo4I0.0iRy5BNXqKTvRtTVJRIF

Thu Feb 7, 6:44 PM ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Children lacking enough shut-eye face a greater risk of becoming obese than kids who get a good night's sleep

Each extra hour of sleep cuts a child's risk of becoming overweight or obese by nine percent, according to an analysis of epidiomogical studies by researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

By contrast, children who got the least sleep had a 92 percent higher change of being overweight or obese than children who slept enough, said the study published in the journal Obesity.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Motivated by a Tax, Irish Spurn Plastic Bags

Published: February 2, 2008

DUBLIN — There is something missing from this otherwise typical bustling cityscape. There are taxis and buses. There are hip bars and pollution. Every other person is talking into a cellphone. But there are no plastic shopping bags, the ubiquitous symbol of urban life.

In 2002, Ireland passed a tax on plastic bags; customers who want them must now pay 33 cents per bag at the register. There was an advertising awareness campaign. And then something happened that was bigger than the sum of these parts.

Within weeks, plastic bag use dropped 94 percent. Within a year, nearly everyone had bought reusable cloth bags, keeping them in offices and in the backs of cars. Plastic bags were not outlawed, but carrying them became socially unacceptable — on a par with wearing a fur coat or not cleaning up after one’s dog.

It does make a difference

McCain praises conservative judges like Alito
'That will go a long way' to reaching those Republicans, consultant predicts
updated 5:20 p.m. ET, Sun., Feb. 3, 2008

FAIRFIELD, Conn. - Republican John McCain says he will try to win over some conservative Republicans by promising to appoint judges in the mold of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito.

Friday, February 01, 2008

National champions: rewarding mediocrity

Thursday, January 31, 2008
National champions: rewarding mediocrity

I have a piece up at trying to unravel why governments so unerringly back losers:

There's a more sinister logic behind the pattern of government favoritism. Namely, firms in emerging, competitive industries have virtually no incentive to lobby for government hand-outs, while firms in aging, shrinking industries have the most to gain.
Here's why: Firms in an open, competitive, growing young industry have little to gain from government support. More government funding for, say, biotechnology, is going to mean more biotechnology companies, more competition and (perhaps) more innovation. That might be good for America, but probably not much good for any single biotech company. Sure, they'll all enjoy the government help, but each must weigh that assistance against the swarm of new competitors attracted by the handouts. No one firm would choose to hire top lobbyists and send them to D.C. to bring back the pork.
By contrast, firms in aging, shrinking, capital-intensive industries have everything to gain from government support. Because the industry is shrinking and it's expensive to enter--think steel mills--the government subsidies and tax breaks are probably not going to attract new competitors. If there are no new competitors, the old guard gets to pocket all the money.

Sounds like a reasonable argument.

Red Cross braces for huge staff cuts

updated 5:33 p.m. ET, Fri., Feb. 1, 2008

In its freshest set of troubles, the American Red Cross is cutting a third of the 3,000 jobs at its national headquarters in an overhaul intended to eliminate a $200 million deficit within two years.

The budget crisis is the latest blow to the 126-year-old Red Cross, America's foremost disaster-response organization, which was criticized for its handling of donations contributed after the Sept. 11 attacks
She also acknowledged that the Red Cross struggles to find steady fundraising. Donations surge during huge disasters like Katrina or last year's wildfires in California but generally subside thereafter — and the charity says its general disaster relief fund is now low.

"It's a challenge to continually remind the public that every day in America there's a disaster, a house fire, and the Red Cross is there, even though not all of them get the attention the wildfires did," DeFrancis said.

I couldn't understand all the criticism of the Red Cross for not using all of the donations designated for one disaster. It just makes sense that since they get more than they need for a widely publicized disaster, to save some of it for other disasters which need their help.