Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Will the great antioxidant myth finally die?

I no longer update my Health blog so I thought I might put up here occasionally any major news on the health front.  And the report below is a dambuster.  I noted previously here that faith in resveratrol has been knocked on the head.  Now antioxidants generally are under attack.  One of the great myths about diet may now be dead or gasping.  There have actually been dissident reports about antioxidants for years but the current one below has got heavy publicity

Think antioxidants will make you live longer? Think again: We spend millions on them but now researchers say supplements may make our bodies age FASTER

We all want to stay as healthy and young-looking as possible, which is why millions of us dutifully take antioxidant supplements such as vitamins C, E and beta-carotene, as well as splashing out on costly antioxidant 'superfoods' such as blueberries.

For years we've swallowed the line from scientists that antioxidants could slow the rate at which our cells - and therefore our bodies - age.

The theory is that antioxidants reduce the 'oxidising' damage caused by free radicals - corrosive molecules produced by our bodies as we process oxygen, and which we also breathe in from polluted air and smoking.

It is thought that when these free radicals attack proteins and lipids (fats in the cells), it breaks down the cell membrane and damages the DNA inside. This in turn may cause cancerous mutations, as well as making the cells age more rapidly. Free-radical damage to brain cells is also believed to cause the sort of drops in cognitive functioning associated with ageing.

In Britain, we spend œ175?million a year on antioxidant supplements - but a new study suggests we might be wasting our money. Not only do free radicals not cause ageing, say researchers at McGill University in Canada, but taking antioxidant pills may actually make our bodies age faster- making them a short cut to an early grave. So what is going on?

When free radicals interact with the cells, proteins and DNA in the body, they can cause damage by interfering with their chemical structure. Until now, it has been believed that, as a result, we inevitably suffer the ravages of ageing, from normal physical ageing to diseases such as cancer.

But the Canadian study, published in the respected journal Cell, says the opposite. Researchers found that free radicals can make our cells live longer.

This happens by altering a mechanism called apoptosis. This is a process by which damaged cells are instructed to commit suicide in a variety of situations, such as to avoid becoming cancerous when their DNA has mutated dangerously, or to kill off viruses that have invaded the cell.

The scientists have found that free radicals can stimulate this 'suicide mechanism' to do something completely different in healthy cells - bolstering  their defences and increasing their lifespan.

Siegfried Hekimi, professor of biology at McGill University, who led the study, says: 'The so-called free-radical theory of ageing is incorrect. We have turned this theory on its head.'

Professor Hekimi says that when he raised levels of free radicals in nematode worms (these simple roundworms are used because their nervous system performs many of the same functions as higher organisms), he got the creatures to live 'a substantially longer life'.

His study reinforces suspicions raised by other scientists. Last year, for example, researchers at the Multimedica Cardiovascular Research Institute in Italy warned that our bodies need the stress caused by free radicals to stimulate them to fight infectious disease and to properly regulate vital bodily functions such as our cardiovascular system.

The Milan-based researchers had surveyed all previous research evidence and concluded in The International Journal of Biochemistry and Cell Biology: 'Increasing the levels of antioxidants in our bodies may harm our health. Balanced levels of antioxidants are important for our cardiovascular system and for healthy ageing.'

The theory behind this idea is called hormesis - which may be more described as 'what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger'.

Scientists believe our bodies have evolved an array of defence mechanisms for surviving tough environments, but that these systems are not switched on unless we are challenged. And that is where free radicals come in.

The problem with antioxidants is that they may neutralise this 'protective' effect. It may also  help explain why antioxidant pills have been found to produce some unexpectedly harmful results.

For instance, laboratory studies have shown how high doses of antioxidants such as N-acetyl cysteine - a popular antioxidant supplement - may promote the spread of breast cancer cells.

Meanwhile, the antioxidants beta carotene and vitamin A have been linked to an increased risk of death from lung cancer and lung disease.

The precise reasons for this remain uncertain. However, some studies, such as one performed in 2009 by Harvard Medical School and published in the prestigious science journal, Nature, have indicated that the high-dose supplements may, ironically, help rogue cancer cells survive and multiply - by shutting down the free radicals and their stimulation of the body's  self-repair mechanisms.

Here, it is important to point out the antioxidants derived from the food we eat are important. The amount we consume in this way is much lower than the quantities found in supplements. At these lower levels they are thought to provide a protective effect.

But recent research findings about free radicals may be a disappointment to the legions of us who take antioxidants in the hope they will extend our lifespans and keep us looking youthful.

However, according to Helen Bond, of the British Dietetic Association, the answer was never to be found in a bottle.

'Whether or not there are benefits from antioxidant vitamins, the best way to get them is from a diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables,' she says. 'You get important vitamins, many of which have antioxidant properties, but you also get all the other benefits that come from eating whole foods.

'Vitamin supplements may be of use to young children, elderly people and pregnant women, but for the rest of the population it is far better to focus on diet, and spend money on fresh, wholesome food instead.'



Is American Democracy Another God that Failed?

Pat Buchanan

On Memorial Day weekend, scores of thousands of bikers arrived here for their annual Rolling Thunder tribute to America's veterans, especially those lost in our wars or left behind.

But this year the tribute has been sullied by a squalid scandal in the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Sick vets seeking medical care at the Phoenix VA hospital were put on waiting lists, but never got to see a doctor. Dozens died. Then waiting lists were altered to make it appear that VA staffers had not failed in their duty to provide the vets access to care in the required 14 days. Some vets suffered for months before dying.

There is truly something rotten in the state.

But, rest assured, this scandal of deceit, dishonor and betrayal is not going to go away soon.

For unlike Benghazi and the IRS scandals, the major media are looking into how widespread was this practice of denying care to vets and doctoring waiting lists to lie about what was done, and not done, at the VA hospitals. And as this is both an easily understood and deeply emotional issue, the public is fully engaged.

Our commander in chief wisely used his weekend to visit our troops in Afghanistan. But between Memorial Day and June 6, when the president speaks at Normandy on the 70th anniversary of D-Day, this metastasizing scandal is going to bleed his administration.

And this crisis gripping the second largest Cabinet department underscores a larger truth.

The core belief of liberalism, the political philosophy that has guided the Democratic Party since FDR's New Deal -- that competent, caring, compassionate government is the instrument best suited to addressing America's social disorders -- is being fatally undermined.

The VA hospitals are supposed to represent the best in quality care for those we owe the most. They are America's example to the world of government-run health care and a single-payer system that liberals have championed for decades.

Does anyone still believe that universal health care modeled on the VA is what we want for America?

Looking around, America's public sector appears to be everywhere in crisis.

Before the VA scandal we had the rollout of Obamacare, the disastrous results of which were so unanticipated and adverse they could cost the Democratic Party control of the Senate in November.

Democrats point to Social Security and Medicare as the ideal of what a caring, compassionate and competent government can do.

But what has Big Government accomplished lately?

In the new century, we have fought our two longest wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Are the results worth the lost blood and treasure?

Or are the results of our interventions the reasons why Americans want to stay out of Syria and Ukraine?

Perhaps the largest of all government programs is education.

Yet despite the trillions of dollars plunged into public education at the local, state and federal levels from the Great Society to No Child Left Behind to Race to the Top, U.S. test scores continue to plummet in international competition and the gap between black and Hispanic and Asian and white continues to persist.

To bring up test scores, we have seen the dumbing down of tests and rampant cheating by principals and teachers erasing and changing answers for students in school districts including D.C. and Atlanta.

Corrupt conduct by those charged with instructing America's children in the moral superiority of democratic government.

Is not the charter school movement a vote of no confidence in a school system that was once the pride of the nation?

The sub-prime mortgage scandal, which almost plunged us into a second Great Depression, was a product of Big Government.

And despite five trillion in federal deficits under Obama, and a Fed policy of pumping endless trillions into the banks, U.S. growth in the first quarter flatlined, and has been anemic for years.

The bankruptcy of Detroit, the downgrades of public debt in Illinois, Puerto Rico and New Jersey -- were they not all caused by the political class that runs state governments?

Yes, there are well-run VA hospitals, outstanding public schools, and state and local governments that are magnets for business. And government has accomplished goals in which all of us take pride.

NASA put our astronauts on the moon. After Pearl Harbor, Washington led America to victory in less than four years. But lately government's failures seem to outnumber its successes.

Republicans rightly view with alarm demographic trends showing their core constituencies shrinking and the Democrats' rising.

But Democrats should also take heed. For declining confidence in government's ability to solve America's problems, which is likely to be translated into Republican gains in Congress this year, represents a declining faith in the Democratic idea that government is the answer.

In the last century, communism was The God That Failed.

It should be a cause for concern that in the new century the god that appears to be failing is American democracy.



Even European Socialists Apparently Get Tired of Big Government

And the EU is very big, ponderous and unresponsive

The European ruling class might have gotten their first glimpse at pitchforks and torches over the weekend when anti-EU parties made gains across the continent. That doesn’t mean the European Parliament is being quickly ushered to the guillotine; but the anti-EU victories can’t possibly be a comforting sight to the bureaucrats who have run Europe’s economy for the last decade. From Scotland to Greece, citizens seem to be growing increasingly weary of the European experiment. A Margaret Thatcher renaissance seems to have swept Europe over the weekend.

Breitbart London began their report on the political earthquake by quoting Charles de Gaulle. “Europe is France and Germany. Everything else is just the garnishes.” (Actually, that’s pretty modest for a Frenchman.) In that light, the anti-EU victories throughout the rest of socialist-land (Europe) seem somewhat insignificant… But, that doesn’t mean they are unworthy of mention.

For the first time in British history (and, let’s face it, that’s not exactly an insignificant stretch of time) a political party with no MPs in the House of Commons has come in first in a national election. Britain’s United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) trounced its left leaning competitors, and beat out many of the center right, Euro-friendly, adversaries. The Euro-skeptic party sailed to a surprising victory by campaigning against the centralization of government, and the disintegration of UK sovereignty. Nigel Farage encapsulated the revolutionary feeling of the victories by declaring that the “people’s army” was on the march against the ruling class… He should be careful. Parliament is likely to begin taxing his tea at any moment.

The populist right-wing parties of Europe also made strides in Austria and Greece. Even France (I’m looking your way de Gaulle) saw right wing parties pick up roughly 20 seats. In other words: More Euro-skeptics will be sent to the European Parliament… And, heck, not all of them will speak with an English accent.

The elections, however, are a disastrous omen for the bureaucracy loving admirers of centralized government. The success of Euro-skeptic parties across the continent basically articulate one uncomfortable fact for cheerleaders of big government: even European socialists can only handle so much “Utopia” before they start raging against the ruling elite.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

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