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March 15th, 2007


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03:13 am - Thoughts and questions about diet, risks, dubious films and medical studies.
I have a question for everyone here. teaotter and I watched around half of Super Size Me when it was on TV. It was interesting, but not all that convincing in various places – having a lunatic ideologue like John Robbins ranting away impressed me not at all. OTOH, there did seem to be some hard data underneath the hype. If nothing else, that data on the US in this fascinating article about health and height reveals that some mixture of childhood health and nutrition in the US hasn't improved in most of a century, while it is clearly improving in most of the rest of the first world.

In any case, one piece of data from Super Size Me that interested me was something that actually seems to be true from doing a bit of google-surfing – that liver damage, up to an including cirrhosis, as well as conditions like NAFLD seem to be increasingly common among teens. When I was growing up, cirrhosis was a disease almost exclusively of late-stage alcoholics, so that's a big change from what I saw when I was a teen and young adult, so something is going on.

However, I'm far less certain about the correlation with diet. It seems to me that there are three possible causes.
  1. Bad diet and obesity, just as claimed in the film and in several articles I've read.
  2. Body stress from the binge and relapse dieting that is shockingly common in the US, and that is know to be very harmful to health.
  3. Some environmental factor unrelated to obesity, such as toxins in water or food.
3 seems unlikely given that various articles I've seen, but not impossible, since there seems to be a whole lot of assumptions going on here, and I have seen nothing to separate 1 & 2 in any of the articles I've seen. My assumption would be to guess that 2 is correct, but I'm curious to know if anyone actually has seen solid data about this.
Current Mood: tiredtired

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Comments:


[User Picture]
From:alobar
Date:March 15th, 2007 07:46 pm (UTC)
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> It seems to me that there are three possible causes.

It seems to me there is also a #4 possible cause. Massive increases in number of prescription drugs (mainly antibiotics) children and teens, as well as increased vaccinations. Livers have to deal with toxins. Prescription drugs are often hard on livers and kidneys.
[User Picture]
From:heron61
Date:March 15th, 2007 07:58 pm (UTC)
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This sort of liver damage is quite new. Whatever the cause might be, it's something that's started or become big in the last 15 or so years. I grew up in the 60s and 70s, and antibiotics were very widely used on teens and children - I very much doubt they are being used significantly more now than then. Also, given the lack of any data linking this liver damage to antibiotics, I'm betting on other causes.
[User Picture]
From:alephnul
Date:March 16th, 2007 06:57 am (UTC)
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Review the list of causes of NAFLD and you will find
tetracycline.

Follow that link, and you will find it packaged for use in prevention and treatment of specific diseases in cattle, swine, sheep, poultry, mink, and bees. It comes with the warning: "Do not use in birds producing eggs for human consumption."

I'm sure the poultry industry follows that stipulation religiously. ;)
[User Picture]
From:heron61
Date:March 16th, 2007 08:46 am (UTC)
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Interesting. However, I'd also want to see info that the NAFLD is not just limited to teens who are seriously obese. I can't find anyone even talking about that, which might be because they haven't found it, or it might be because they assume it's a problem related to obesity and haven't looked.
[User Picture]
From:alephnul
Date:March 16th, 2007 09:34 am (UTC)
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If it really isa new problem (do you have any links to peer reviewed studies on this? Oh hell, I have PubMed access through my work, I'll look it up), then it is unlikely to be related specifically to obesity. While there may be more obese teens now than previously, there aren't orders of magnitude more. If we are talking about an orders of magnitude change in frequency of teen NAFLD, then it is more likely to be environmental than physical (the environment has changed a lot, people haven't changed that much), including food issues like animal antibiotics, corn syrup, and trans-fats as part of the environment.
[User Picture]
From:heron61
Date:March 16th, 2007 10:28 am (UTC)
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Given that your data access is better than mine, I'm very interested to know what you can come up with.
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From:rhiannasilel
Date:March 15th, 2007 09:38 pm (UTC)
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My thought is that it could be the increased use of High Fructose Cornsyrup. Back in the 70's and even early 80's when I was a kid most things still contained sugar -- even Coca Cola (before Max Headroom Coke and the later Coke Classic). Now, high fructose corn syrup has replaced sugar in most of the drinks geared toward growing children. Check out the fruit strips and fruit punch bottles at the grocery store some time. You'd be really surprised just how many things this stuff can be found in.
[User Picture]
From:heron61
Date:March 15th, 2007 09:54 pm (UTC)
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That or trans-fats (which are similarly recent) seem obvious candidates given the explosion of use they have both seen in the past 20 years.
[User Picture]
From:rhiannasilel
Date:March 16th, 2007 12:05 am (UTC)
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I'd be curious if there was any decent research on the effects of the combination of the two together.
[User Picture]
From:heronheart
Date:March 16th, 2007 02:01 am (UTC)
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Another factor is lack of exercise. There is a very strong correlation between the number of miles driven and obesity, etc. Aerobic exercise. eg. walking/bicycling is one of the very few near panaceas out there.

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