29 January 2013

Sugar Tax Proposed - Misleading Comment from Industry

As you will see from the report below, there has been a proposition to impose a 20p per litre tax on sugary drinks. Well, I am not in favour of such taxes but, if anything should be taxed, this is probably a good one, in my view. But there are several parts of this report which show that proponents of both sides are trying to mislead.I have added comments as we go.

By Andrew Woodcock, Press Association Political Editor

Sugary drinks should be subject to a new tax, which could add 20p a litre to their price, with the proceeds going towards child health, a report said today.
The report by food and farming charity Sustain said that the Government could raise #1 billion a year from a sugary drinks duty to pay for free school meals and measures to encourage children to eat fruit and vegetables.
The levy would also help save lives by cutting consumption of sugar-laden drinks, said the report, which has been backed by more than 60 organisations including the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, Friends of the Earth, the National Heart Forum and the Royal Society for Public Health.
Diet-related illness is now costing the NHS £6 billion every year, said the report.
Sustain urged Chancellor George Osborne to introduce a sugary drinks duty in his March 20 Budget and to channel most of the cash raised into a Children's Future Fund for programmes to improve children's health and future well-being.
The group's campaigns manager Charlie Powell said: "Sugar-laden drinks are mini-health timebombs, contributing to dental diseases, obesity and a host of life-threatening illnesses which cost the NHS billions each year.
"We are delighted that so many organisations want to challenge the Government to show it has a public health backbone by including a sugary drinks duty in Budget 2013.
"It's a simple and easy-to-understand measure which will help save lives by reducing sugar in our diets and raising much-needed money to protect children's health."
Sustain chairman Mike Rayner, of Oxford University's Department of Public Health, added: "Just as we use fiscal measures to discourage drinking and smoking and help prevent people from dying early, there is now lots of evidence that the same approach would work for food.
"This modest proposal goes some way towards making the price of food reflect its true costs to society.
"Our obesity epidemic causes debilitating illness, life-threatening diseases and misery for millions of people. It is high time Government did something effective about this problem." (Couldn't agree more. But I doubt they will. When the Obesity Steering Group reports on 25 February, I'll bet they advocate more of the same old, same old . . .)
Where this has gone wrong, in my view, is that Sustain is saying tax sugar (which is a 50-50 mix of glucose and fructose) in soft drinks but encourage children to eat more fructose in fruit and glucose in starchy vegetables, or to put it another way: Discourage children to eat sugar which contains fructose and glucose, but encourage children to eat foods that contains fructose and glucose!

The director general of the British Soft Drinks Association, Gavin Partington, said: "Obesity is a serious and complex problem (He's right), but a tax on soft drinks, which contribute just 2% of the total calories in the average diet, will not help address it. (Right again. Lots of other carbohydrate-rich foods also contribute. Why just select one?)
"Over the last 10 years, the consumption of soft drinks containing added sugar has fallen by 9% while the incidence of obesity has increased by 15%. (Wouldn't surprise me. 'Healthy eating' is also fattening.)
"We all recognise our industry has a role to play in the fight against obesity, which is why soft drinks companies have already taken action to ensure they are playing their part. Sixty-one per cent of soft drinks now contain no added sugar (True, but they contain even more harmful artificial sweeteners) and we have seen soft drinks companies lead the way in committing to further, voluntary action as part of the Government's Responsibility Deal
Calorie Reduction Pledge.
"These commitments include, for example, reducing the sugar content in their products and introducing smaller packs. (But at the same price so children buy more of them and increase profit margins! - I suspect)
"At present, 10p out of every 60p can of drink already goes to the Government thanks to VAT. Putting up taxes even further will put pressure on people's purses at a time when they can ill afford it. (Not really. Who needs sodas?) It's worth noting that Denmark recently scrapped such a tax." (No, they didn't! The Danish government taxed saturated fats which are beneficial and tend to reduce obesity and associated diseases. They repealed the tax when - surprise, surprise - they found it didn't work.)

22 January 2013

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

It all started with 'high cholesterol', then came the 'good' and the 'bad' cholesterols. Now we have the last member of the notorious trio: the 'ugly cholesterol'.


The risk of ischaemic heart disease -- the leading cause of death worldwide -- is three times higher in persons with high levels of the so-called 'ugly' cholesterol. This is the finding of a new study of 73,000 Danes, which is shedding light on a long debate on this topic. The results have just been published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Most individuals believe that high cholesterol is life-threatening (despite all the evidence to the contrary). And many 'know' which type of cholesterol is the most frequent killer -- the 'bad' one, LDL -- or is it just the small, dense LDL and not the fluffy stuff.

Up until now, cholesterol has been divided into 'the good' HDL cholesterol, 'the bad' LDL cholesterol, with all the other sub-fractions, IDL, VLDL, etc, not getting a look in.

But now another 'cholesterol' has turned up in the mix: 'the ugly' cholesterol AKA 'remnant cholesterol'. And this one, it seems, is the really bad guy.

Professor Børge Nordestgaard, Chief Physician at Copenhagen University Hospital and Clinical Professor at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences at University of Copenhagen says:

    "LDL cholesterol or 'the bad' cholesterol' is of course bad, but our new study reveals that the ugly cholesterol likewise is the direct cause of atherosclerosis resulting in ischemic heart disease and early death. By examining 73,000 persons, we found that an increase in the ugly cholesterol triples the risk of ischemic heart disease, which is caused by lack of oxygen to the heart muscle due to narrowing or blocking of the coronary arteries"

     "I hope that this new knowledge will lead to better preventive treatment including lifestyle changes, as more than one in five individuals in affluent countries suffers from high ugly cholesterol. We also hope that the pharmaceutical industry will develop new drugs targeted specifically at raised ugly cholesterol levels"

So, what is ugly cholesterol?
"Ugly cholesterol is the result of high blood levels of normal fat (triglycerides),"  says Børge Nordestgaard. "The most important cause of high ugly cholesterol is overweight and obesity. Persons with high ugly cholesterol should therefore be advised to lose weight, but drugs such as statins and fibrates may also lower levels of ugly cholesterol in the blood."

Samples from 73,000 Danes with mutations

Anette Varbo, physician and PhD student at Copenhagen University Hospital, Was part of the research team behind the new findings. She says that the findings shed light on a long-standing debate among researchers on the so-called triglycerides, atherosclerosis and cholesterol. She says:
     "To be able to examine the relationship between ugly cholesterol and heart disease, we have used blood samples from persons having a mutation which means that they suffer from high ugly cholesterol their entire life. The research findings do therefore not depend on their lifestyle patterns in general. Unhealthy lifestyle factors such as smoking, fatty foods and overweight all increase the risk of heart disease, and the blood samples from persons having these mutations thus give the most accurate results"

So, another good reason to watch your weight, it seems. And the best way to do that is with a low-carb, high-fat diet.

Patents on statins are running out. What's the betting that BigPharma will now search for new drugs, or revamp existing ones for this 'new' use. And when those patents run out, no doubt there will be another 'cholesterol' discovered, and then another, and so on . . . until we have The Magnificent Seven.

Journal Reference:
1.     Anette Varbo, Marianne Benn, Anne Tybjærg-Hansen, Anders B. Jørgensen, Ruth Frikke-Schmidt, Børge G. Nordestgaard. Remnant Cholesterol as a Causal Risk Factor for Ischemic Heart Disease. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 2012; DOI: 10.1016/j.jacc.2012.08.1026

02 January 2013

Study Finds Eating Fructose May Stimulate Overeating

Supports Chapter 8: Why ‘five portions’?

Scientists have used imaging tests to show for the first time that fructose, a sugar that saturates the American diet, can trigger brain changes that may lead to overeating.

After drinking a fructose beverage, the brain doesn't register the feeling of being full as it does when simple glucose is consumed, researchers found.

It's a small study and does not prove that fructose or its relative, high-fructose corn syrup, can cause obesity, but experts say it adds evidence they may play a role.

The sugars often are added to processed foods and beverages and consumption has risen dramatically since the 1970s along with obesity.

A third of US children and teens and more than two-thirds of adults are obese or overweight.

All sugars are not equal
even though they contain the same amount of calories — because they are metabolised differently in the body.

Table sugar is sucrose, which is half fructose, half glucose, while high-fructose corn syrup is 55% fructose and 45% glucose. Some nutrition experts say this sweetener may pose special risks, but others and the industry reject that claim.

Doctors say we eat too much sugar in all forms.

For the study, scientists used magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, scans to track blood flow in the brain in 20 young, normal-weight people before and after they had drinks containing glucose or fructose in two sessions several weeks apart.

Scans showed that drinking glucose "turns off or suppresses the activity of areas of the brain that are critical for reward and desire for food", said one study leader, Yale University endocrinologist Dr Robert Sherwin.

With fructose, "we don't see those changes," he said.

"As a result, the desire to eat continues - it isn't turned off."

What's convincing, said Dr. Jonathan Purnell, an endocrinologist at Oregon Health and Science University, is that the imaging results mirrored how hungry the people said they felt, as well as what earlier studies found in animals.

"It implies that fructose, at least with regards to promoting food intake and weight gain, is a bad actor compared to glucose," said Purnell.

He wrote a commentary that appears with the federally funded study in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers are now testing obese people to determine if they react the same way to fructose and glucose as the normal-weight people in the study.

But there is one other source of fructose which the study neglected fruit. While many already know that high-fructose corn syrup is not healthy, we are told by the 'experts' that fruit is healthy. Yet the sugar that makes fruit sweet is pure fructose! Go figure, as our American cousins say.

Page KA et al. Effects of Fructose vs Glucose on Regional Cerebral Blood Flow in Brain Regions Involved With Appetite and Reward Pathways. JAMA. 2013;309(1):63-70