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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sea salt health claims 'flawed'

 Don't add salt to your food, say health experts Rock and sea salt is no different to ordinary table salt, despite claims it is natural and more healthy, say consumer groups.

Research for Which? and Consensus Action on Salt and Health found no difference in chemical content between regular salt and costly gourmet brands.

Manufacturers dispute the report saying it does not give the full picture.

Most UK adults eat too much salt, far above the recommended guideline of about a teaspoon a day.

Eating a diet high in salt is linked with high blood pressure, a risk factor for stroke, heart failure and heart disease.

The research analysed the chemical content of several gourmet brands of sea and rock salt, and compared this with ordinary table salt.

Continue reading the main story
This report is not giving a full picture by not going into the other things in either sea salt or the additives in table salt”

End Quote David Lea-Wilson Co-owner of the Anglesey Salt Company They say all contain almost 100% sodium chloride and are equally damaging to health in large quantities.

Celebrity chefs should not be encouraging people to sprinkle sea salt on food, the report claims, as you can get all the salt you need from a balanced diet.

Professor Graham MacGregor of the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine is chairman of Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH).

He said it was "disgraceful" that chefs still encouraged people to use so much sea and rock salt.

He told the BBC: "The most important message is that you don't need to add a chemical [sodium chloride] to your food.

"Food without salt tastes much better. There's quite enough already present in fruit, vegetables, meat and fish."

Cheaper option

The report says brands claiming some salts are more natural and contain essential minerals are confusing the public.

An online survey of 1,358 members of Which? found around one in three admitted thinking that rock and sea salts were healthier than table salt.

Which? chief policy adviser Sue Davies said: "Many of us are trying to reduce the amount of salt in our diet, but our research shows that people are needlessly spending more money on 'premium' salt as they often believe it's healthier than traditional table salt.

"Given that most of the salt we eat is already in the food we buy, the cheapest - and healthiest - option would be to stop adding extra salt to food altogether.

"Which? is calling on food manufacturers to reduce the amount of salt in their foods, and we'll be monitoring their progress over the coming months."

David Lea-Wilson, co-owner of the Anglesey Sea Salt Company, which makes Halen Mon Pure White Sea Salt, disputed the research.

He told the BBC: "This report is not giving a full picture by not going into the other things in either sea salt or the additives in table salt."

Romi Alexander of So Natural, which supplies Himalayan Crystal Salt, said: "Table salt is a highly refined, processed white substance that's devoid of nutrients."

Social gene 'spotted in seconds'

 People can judge a person's traits by studying them for just 20 seconds, the research suggests It is well known that first impressions count, but they may also be enough to give insights into a person's genes.

Researchers say people can spot whether a complete stranger has a certain "social gene" in just 20 seconds.

Two variants of the "oxytocin receptor gene" have been linked with social traits.

People judging the empathy of strangers - by studying the way they listened to people - predicted the genetic variant, a University of Toronto study showed.

The hormone oxytocin has a role in birth, production of milk and bonding between mother and baby.

It also seems to have a role in social skills and has variously been called the "love" or "cuddle" chemical.

Two variants of the oxytocin receptor gene - termed G and A - have been linked to social behaviour.

Studies have shown that people with two copies of G, compared with one of each or two of A, are at lower risk of autism and report higher levels of empathy, positive emotions and said they were more social.

Silent movie

Twenty three couples were filmed for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study. One described a moment of personal suffering while their partner listened.

Strangers then watched a 20 second silent recording of the exchange and scored the listener for their "prosocial traits", such as a caring nature or empathy.

GG people were found to be more prosocial than AG or AA people.

In the top 10 most trusted people, six were GG. In the 10 least trusted people, nine had at least one copy of A.

One of the researchers, Dr Aleksandr Kogan from the University of Toronto, said: "Our findings suggest even slight genetic variation may have tangible impact on people's behaviour, and that these behavioural differences are quickly noticed by others.

"Our study asked the question of whether these differences manifest themselves in behaviours that are quickly detectable by strangers, and it turns out they did."

Prof Sarina Rodrigues Saturn, from Oregon State University, said: "It was amazing to see how the data aligned so strongly by genotype.

"It makes sense that a gene crucial for social processing would yield these findings; other studies have shown that people are good at judging people at a distance and first impressions really make an impact."

Stayin' alive - does music have a role in CPR?

 Music by the Bee Gees has been recommended to help people perform CPR Can a bit of the Bee Gees help people perform CPR after someone's heart has stopped beating?

Following the beat of Stayin' Alive has been recommended in the past to help people perform the correct number of chest compressions each minute - as has Nellie the Elephant.

However, using these tracks can lead to compressions which are too shallow, studies show.

Experts now argue that better alternatives are now available.

They want research into the field to come to an end.

Correctly performed CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation - or mouth-to-mouth) is lifesaving and is thought to triple survival rates.

The UK Resuscitation Council recommends that the chest is compressed by 5-6 cm and at a rate of 100-120 compressions per minute.

Look elsewhere

Performing CPR to Stayin' Alive was recommended in the US as the song contains 103 beats per minute.

Nellie the Elephant had been recommended in the UK. A study published in 2009 showed that using the song as an aid did increase the number of people getting the right rate. But there was a drop in those hitting the correct depth.

Now a study, published in Emergency Medicine Journal, has investigated Achy Breaky Heart, by Billy Ray Cyrus, and Disco Science, by Mirwais. It showed more than a third of compressions were still too shallow.

The authors concluded: "When considering the combined importance of correct depth and rate, the authors are unconvinced that music provides any benefit in improving the quality of CPR compared with a metronome or audible feedback, suggesting that this interesting but unproductive area of resuscitation research should be discontinued."

The St John Ambulance said training aids can prove helpful.

"Although first aid training doesn't advocate using music to perform CPR, we have found that sometimes people struggle to get the correct number of chest compressions needed per minute and that a training aid, such as a certain musical beat, can help people identify the rate.

"To be effective, both the rate and depth of chest compressions have to be right and we use other training aids to ensure that individuals get the right depth."

The lead author of this study, Prof Malcolm Woollard, said music was not necessarily a bad tool and that "anything that encouraged people to intervene was a good thing".

"Any form of CPR is better than none at all," he added.

However, he said technology was moving on and devices can sense the pressure and rate of chest compressions, even some smartphones, could be used.

Dr Jasmeet Soar, chair of the Resuscitation Council (UK), said: "I agree with the authors that alternative prompt and feedback devices are probably better than music for improving the rate and depth of chest compressions given to patients with cardiac arrest.

"More importantly, if someone has collapsed, is unconscious and unresponsive, and not breathing or just making occasional gasps, dial 999 and start chest compressions. Push hard at about two compressions per second.

"After 30 chest compressions, give two rescue breaths if you are trained - if not, just carry on giving chest compressions until expert help arrives."

Suits versus beards

Seeing stats in a different way  Who do you believe, a Beard or a Suit? In his regular column, Michael Blastland asks if it's facts or identity that decides who's right.

Picture four authority figures, described below. They're clever, they've written weighty books, and they disagree.

Who do you believe?

The casual guy with beard and open-necked shirt The lean, smooth, designer-glasses and all-in-black typeThe business-like, short-haired, serious suit-and-tieOr maybe a different kind of man-in-jacket, older and rounder, more avuncular

Stupid question. Isn't the first consideration what they say and the strength of their evidence, rather than how they look?

Maybe not. Because we treat people's appearance as a clue to their values. We expect Suit, for example, to be a patriot who thinks people should stand on their own feet. And so he is. Beard dislikes corporate America and believes in more equality. And really, are you surprised by his views? The designer type is a cool individualist. And Uncle Jacket defends tradition.

The types are crude, comical, they generalise horribly and I've adapted them. But they conform roughly to those used by researchers at Yale University and seem to strike a chord. The research is called the cultural cognition project.

Note that the four types of the cultural cognition project are all blokes.

Ok, Beard and Suit weren't the full cultural categories used. You can find out how they really did it by looking at the paper on cultural cognition.

What cultural cognition means is that people form perceptions about the facts mostly in line with their existing values and cultural types - of which appearance is one part.

Do the sources of the information share my values? Can I identify with them? Do they reinforce my self-image? OK then, I'll listen. Suits like their information from like-minded Suits - Beards like it from like-minded Beards. At least, that's the argument. What are women supposed to do?

"Basically the reason that people react in a close-minded way to information is that the implications of it threaten their values," Professor Dan Kahan, who is involved in the cultural cognition project, has said.

"If the implication, the outcome, can affirm your values, you think about it in a much more open-minded way."

The cultural cognition project is an attempt to answer what the researchers call one of the most puzzling questions in science communication - why people persistently disagree - sometimes to the point of political conflict - even when the facts ought to be capable of scientific resolution.

The answer, they suggest, is that identity is more important to us than fact.

So if Beard says something we don't like, we'll say that's just typical of Beard who frankly doesn't deserve to be called an expert and anyway really ought to get a shave. In this way, we'll convince ourselves that the scientific consensus is always on our side.

All this is a problem for those scientists who hope that the facts will triumph and that if they give us more information we will converge on a "sensible" view. The cultural cognition project has found that views actually move further apart as people are given more information.

Man shaving generic Maybe shave off the beard if you want to argue nuclear power is the way forward

Why? Because more information gives us a better chance to assess whether the science supports our self-image and values. If it doesn't, we reject it.

It's not just a question of evaluating information according to the cultural types that deliver it. We actually split along the lines of those cultural types with whom we identify - we become Beards or Suits.

Even if we are receiving information in printed form, we still act according to our cultural type.

For example, what do you think about nanotechnology? Not much, perhaps, if you're unfamiliar with it.

As part of the project, a chart was drawn up measuring the percentage of people who thought the benefits outweighed the risks, before and after being given more information.

More information about nanotechnology did not bring people together, it moved them sharply apart - according to their cultural type.

Suits thought it more beneficial and far less risky the more they heard about it, Beards thought it less beneficial and more risky, even though - and this is key - they were given the same information.

I've been trying to make up my mind what I think about all this - beyond finding it fascinating - without reference to the fact that Kahan wears a brown-ish suit and does a lively presentation.

Is cultural cognition really such a big factor, given everything else that goes to shape our judgements? Does it, as some allege, insinuate a more negative stereotype of the suited individualist than of the others?

If there's truth in cultural cognition, then one response might be despair about the point of argument. But there is another - if you hope to persuade a disbelieving Suit that climate change is real, for example, then the most effective strategy - putting aside the merit of the argument - would be to shave off the beard, wear a sharp suit of your own, and say nuclear power is the answer.

View the original article here

Tumours ramp up recycling efforts

  Does cancer depend on recycling? Protein recycling in the body could be a critical part of tumour formation, researchers believe.

A report in Science Translational Medicine showed that protein recycling was accelerated in more than 30 types of cancerous cell.

When scientists interrupted the process in mice with cancer, the tumours began to shrink.

The results were described as "exciting" and as a new target for drug development.

The recycling process studied was "chaperone-mediated autophagy" (CAM). It is a normal part of a cell's routine, removing damaged goods and recycling the raw materials.

Prof Ana Cuervo, one of the researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, believes cancerous cells are using this process in order to fuel their abnormally rapidly growth.

"Cancer cells seem to have learned how to optimise this system to obtain the energy they need," she said.

When they studied a variety of tissues, including lung, breast and liver, they found the level of CAM activity was higher in cancerous cells than normal ones.

Continue reading the main story
Cancer cells seem to have learned how to optimise this system to obtain the energy they need”

End Quote Prof Ana Cuervo Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University The researchers then used a virus to infect cells with short snippets of genetic material, which would turn off the recycling process.

Using the virus slowed the growth of the tumours in mice with human lung cancers.

Prof Cuervo said it resulted in "dramatic tumour shrinkage and almost complete blockage of metastasis [spreading]".

The scientists believe their findings could lead to an anticancer drug. By finding a chemical which would interfere with the recycling process they hope to be able to mimic the effect the virus had.

Prof Andrew Thorburn at the University of Colorado, and Jayanta Debnath of the University of California, San Francisco, described the study as "exciting".

"CMA inhibitors could be useful for cancer therapy, as they should inhibit tumour growth and also reduce the ability of tumour cells to metastasise."

However, they warned that "we do not currently have a feasible method to selectively inhibit CMA in patients".

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