Sunday, May 26, 2024

How junk food causes cancer - as Morgan Spurlock, maker of "Super Size Me", dies from disease aged 53

Ho Hum! Just the usual elitist scorn for anything popular, regardless of the evidence. They make a nod to the evidence but it is a pathetic nod. The Singapore study they mention was in vitro (cells in glass dishes) and the European study of mainly middle class ladies "excluded participants with extreme energy intake", failed to control for income and found only marginal hazard ratios. See below for links to the original studies:
Studies of cells in glass dishes notoriously fail to predict effects in actual human beings and income is the most pervasive predictor of poor health and is hence a serious potential confounder

And the study is moreover a correlational one -- to which the old dictum "correlation is not proof of causation" applies.

Perhaps the most amusing thing about the European study is that it was based on questionnaires -- self reports of food intake. I have recently noted a case where food questionnaires predicted ill health while a more direct measure of the same food intake by the same peope did not. In other words, self reports are a poor predictor of actual behaviour. Psychologists have known that since the 1930s but it has yet to dent the faith of medical researchers, apparently

But it is a paradox of logic that while correlations are no proof of causation, their absence can be an excellent DISPROOF of causation. And I have recently noted a case where a correlational study produced strong evidence that ultra-processed food is NOT bad for you. Too bad about that bit of evidence, I guess
And I will not waste words on the Spurlock stunt

To give hope to those who tend to eat whatever they like I will mention my own experience. I have always been a keen eater of "incorrect" food -- including many visits to McDonald's. Yet recent scans and tests of my splanchnic organs (liver, kidneys etc) have revealed them to be now in just about as a good a shape as they were when I was 18 -- and I am now 80. Don't let the panic-merchants get you down. It's your genes, not your food that dictate how healthy you are and will be

The link between junk food and cancer was put back into focus today after the death of Super Size Me documentary maker Morgan Spurlock - who died from the disease.

His family said Spurlock, 53, succumbed to 'complications' of cancer but did not reveal which type he had or how long he'd been battling it.

There is no indication his condition was linked to the 2004 movie, which saw him consume nothing but McDonald's meals for a month as a health experiment - even though he suffered a number of health issues in the immediate aftermath.

Piles of research in recent decades have shown that eating lots of processed foods is linked to at least 34 different types of cancers - even in people who are not obese.

Even though the link between ultra-processed foods - including fast food, soda, chips, ice-cream, sugary cereals and deli meats - and cancer is well established, the exact mechanism is still being understood.

One of the ways UPFs may cause cancer is due to their makeup. These foods often contain high levels of saturated fat, added sugars and sodium and are low in nutrients such as vitamins and minerals, and fiber.

If we eat too many ultra-processed foods, we may not eat enough of the foods in the diet that we know boost the immune system and help prevent cancer from forming, such as wholegrains, fruit and vegetables.

Secondly, consuming these foods regularly can lead to weight gain. Being above a healthy weight increases your risk of developing 13 different cancers, including cancers of the bowel, kidney, pancreas, esophagus, endometrium, liver and breast (after menopause).

Excess weight can trigger a host of hormonal changes that can cause tumors to grow.

A study earlier this year also uncovered a potential missing link between how eating junk food increases the risk of cancer.

The research out of Singapore found that a compound released when the body breaks down sugary and fatty foods switches off a gene that fights off cancer.

It could, at least in part, explain why cancers among young, ostensibly healthy Americans are becoming so prevalent, particularly tumors in the colon.

The academics looked at the effect of methylglyoxal, a compound released when the body breaks down sugary and fatty foods, on a gene that helps fight off tumors.

They found that methylglyoxal was able to temporarily shut off the BRCA2 gene's ability to protect against cancer forming and growing.

Repeated exposure, such as through eating processed foods, would increase the amount of damage to genes like BRCA2.

The research adds to a long list of studies suggesting that diet could have an impact on cancer risk, particularly colorectal cancer.

Research from the Cleveland Clinic, for example, found that people under 50 who ate diets rich in red meat and sugar had lower levels of the compound citrate, which is created when the body converts food into energy and has been shown to inhibit tumor growth.

Red and processed meat also contain compounds such as heme and nitrates, which, when broken down in the body, form compounds that can damage the cells lining the bowel, increasing the likelihood of cancer developing.

UPFs refers to items which contain ingredients people would not usually add when they were cooking homemade food.

These additions might include chemicals, colorings, sweeteners and preservatives that extend shelf life.

One example is phthalates - a group of chemicals used to make plastics more durable.

The chemicals get into food mainly through packaging and food handling equipment such as cellophane and plastic in contact with food. Exposure to phthalates has been linked to breast cancer.

Other research, including the biggest analysis of evidence to date involving 10million people, found that eating a lot of foods such as ready meals, sugary cereals and mass-produced bread is linked to an increased risk of 32 health problems, including cancer.

A 2023 study published in the European Journal of Nutrition found cancer risk shot up when people ate just 350g of ultra-processed food per day over the course of a decade - the equivalent of a large packet of chips or half a sharing bag of Skittles.

This amount was linked to a 20 percent higher risk of head and neck cancer and a 25 percent higher risk of esophageal adenocarcinoma, a type of cancer that grows in the lining of the food pipe.

The study said the disease could result from detrimental changes in gut flora, as well as potential hormonal effects.

Dr David Katz, a specialist in preventive and lifestyle medicine who was not involved in the study, previously told CNN: 'If UPFs contribute to cancer risk, they do it to a small extent by contributing to obesity, and to a much larger extent by other mechanisms.'

'What might those be? Diet-induced inflammation; disruption of the microbiome; adverse epigenetic effects; and many other possibilities come to mind.'


NHS charter to stress biological sex when placing patients in wards

A huge backdown for the Left. Edward Dutton is having some fun with it:

Transgender women should not be put on single-sex female NHS wards, the government is proposing.

The measure is part of a raft of changes to the NHS Constitution for England, the charter of rights for patients.
The proposals stress the importance of biological sex for the first time when it comes to same-sex accommodation and intimate care.

In both cases, the rights are available only where possible.
For example, same-sex accommodation rights, which have existed for years, can and are breached where there is a clinically urgent need to admit and treat a patient and do not extend to areas such as critical care or accident and emergency.

The guidance also means that trans men should not be housed on single-sex male wards.

Under the proposals:

transgender people, whose gender identity differs from their biological sex, may be provided single rooms, where appropriate

patients will have the right to request a person of the same biological sex delivers any intimate care

Health Secretary Victoria Atkins said it was about making it clear that "sex matters".

"We want to make it abundantly clear that if a patient wants same-sex care, they should have access to it wherever reasonably possible," she said.

"By putting this in the NHS Constitution, we're highlighting the importance of balancing the rights and needs of all patients, to make a healthcare system that is faster, simpler and fairer to all."

What does trans mean and what is the Cass review?

'Trampled over'

Maya Forstater, of the Sex Matters campaign group, said the changes were "excellent news".

"The confusion between 'sex' and 'gender' in official policies like the NHS Constitution is what has enabled women's rights to be trampled over in the name of transgender identities," she said.

But Cleo Madeleine, of trans-led group Gendered Intelligence, said robust policies were already in place and the government had its priorities wrong.

"After 14 years of austerity, medical professionals are crying out for more funding, more resources, and better conditions for staff and patients," she said.

"The government seems hell-bent on pursuing its obsession with the transgender community instead of addressing these longstanding needs."

'Martha's rule'

The changes are part of a wider review of the NHS Constitution, which the government must complete every 10 years.

They also include a plan to embed patients and their loved ones' right to access a rapid review from outside the care team if the patient is deteriorating.

This is the right behind "Martha's rule", which is being introduced in the NHS, to ensure patients know they can ask for a second opinion, with the government providing funding to hospitals for posters and leaflets informing patients and their families.

All the changes will be consulted on over the next eight weeks, before the constitution is updated later this year.

Labour's shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said: "Rights on paper are worthless unless they are delivered in practice.
"The NHS constitution already pledges that no patient will have to share an overnight ward with patients of the opposite sex, but that is not the case for too many patients."


Top academic accuses the British Medical Journal of 'abandoning science' after rejecting research 'because of their views on the trans debate'

The BMJ is HIGHLY political and has been for long time

The British Medical Journal has been accused of 'abandoning science' after it rejected research from top academics over their views on the trans debate.

One researcher had his paper rejected because he was 'opinionated' and had tweeted in support of author JK Rowling's gender-critical views.

The other's research was taken offline by BMJ staff who accused him of being 'transphobic' based on a student paper article about him. Both academics saw the discussions in BMJ staff emails after making Freedom of Information requests.

Dr Michael Biggs, an Oxford University sociologist, was blacklisted over a paper saying the official number of transgender people in the UK – 262,000 – is unreliable because of a confusingly-worded census question.

He said a number of people who don't speak English as a first language had answered 'no' to: 'Is the gender you identify with the same as your sex registered at birth?'

BMJ staff emails claimed Dr Biggs' piece 'portrays trans individuals as uneducated and implies they weren't able to understand the question on the census'.

The emails also revealed concerns about him 'being known for being transphobic' after a student paper in 2018 claimed he had tweeted critical views of trans people.

Dr Biggs said 'some journal editors... don't care if an article is true, but whether it helps disadvantaged or oppressed minorities'.

Dr John Armstrong, a mathematician at King's College London, submitted a paper to BMJ Open on findings that institutions with higher 'Athena Swan' ratings – an award given for promoting gender equality – had fewer women in senior roles.

After it was rejected, he found a member of staff had told a colleague his social media account had 'coloured our impression of the manuscript'.

One email said 'he's quite argumentative and opinionated', and highlighted how he retweeted a JK Rowling post supporting campaigner Maya Forstater, who lost her job after saying people could not change their biological sex.

Dr Armstrong said: 'If a journal censors findings because they don't like the results or the author, it has abandoned science.'

The BMJ denied it would reject a paper for 'political or ideological reasons'.


Catholic Church shift marks ‘a step back in time’ for some

Madison: It was the music that changed first. Or maybe that’s just when many people at the pale brick Catholic church in the quiet Wisconsin neighbourhood finally began to realise what was happening.

The choir director, a fixture at St Maria Goretti for nearly 40 years, was suddenly gone. Contemporary hymns were replaced by music rooted in medieval Europe.

So much was changing. Sermons were focusing more on sin and confession. Priests were rarely seen without cassocks. Altar girls, for a time, were banned.

At the parish elementary school, students began hearing about abortion and hell.

“It was like a step back in time,” said one former parishioner, still so dazed by the tumultuous changes that began in 2021 with a new pastor that he only spoke on condition of anonymity.

It’s not just St Maria Goretti.

Across the US, the Catholic Church is undergoing an immense shift. Generations of Catholics who embraced the modernising tide sparked in the 1960s by Vatican II are increasingly giving way to religious conservatives who believe the church has been twisted by change, with the promise of salvation replaced by casual indifference to doctrine.

The shift, moulded by plummeting church attendance, increasingly traditional priests and growing numbers of young Catholics searching for more orthodoxy, has reshaped parishes across the country, leaving them sometimes at odds with Pope Francis and much of the Catholic world.

The changes are not happening everywhere. There are still plenty of liberal parishes, plenty that see themselves as middle-of-the-road. Despite their growing influence, conservative Catholics remain a minority.

Yet the changes they have brought are impossible to miss.

The progressive priests who dominated the US church in the years after Vatican II are now in their 70s and 80s. Many are retired. Some are dead. Younger priests, surveys show, are far more conservative.

At St Maria Goretti, once steeped in the ethos of Vatican II, many parishioners saw the changes as a requiem.

“I don’t want my daughter to be Catholic,” said Christine Hammond, whose family left the parish when the new outlook spilt into the church’s school and her daughter’s classroom. “Not if this is the Roman Catholic Church that is coming.”

But this is not a simple story. Because there are many who welcome this new, old church.

They often stand out in the pews, with the men in ties and the women sometimes with the lace head coverings that all but disappeared from American churches more than 50 years ago. Large families signal adherence to the church’s contraception ban, which most Americans have casually ignored.

Many yearn for Masses that echo with medieval traditions – more Latin, more incense, more Gregorian chants.

“We want this ethereal experience that is different from everything else in our lives,” said Ben Rouleau, who until recently led St Maria Goretti’s young adult group, which saw membership skyrocket even as the parish shrank amid the turmoil.

If this movement emerged from anywhere, it might be a now-demolished Denver football stadium.

Some 500,000 people descended on Denver in 1993 for the Catholic festival World Youth Day.

Pope John Paul II, who was beloved both for his kindness and his sternness, confronted an American church shaped by decades of progressive change.

The church had grown increasingly liberal since Vatican II. Confession was rarely mentioned, Latin largely abandoned. Catholic social teaching on poverty suffused churches.

On some issues, John Paul II agreed with liberal-minded Catholics, speaking against capital punishment and for workers’ rights. He preached relentlessly about forgiveness.

But he was uncompromising on dogma.

Catholics “are in danger of losing their faith,” he said in Denver, decrying abortion, drug abuse, and what he called “sexual disorders”.

Across the nation, fervent young Catholics listened.

Yet even today, surveys show most American Catholics are far from orthodox. Most support abortion rights. The vast majority use birth control.

But increasingly, those Catholics are not in church.

In 1970, more than half of America’s Catholics said they went to Mass at least once a week. By 2022, that had fallen to 17 per cent, according to CARA, a research centre affiliated with Georgetown University. Among millennials, it’s just 9 per cent.

As a result, those who remain in the church have outsized influence.

On the national level, conservatives increasingly dominate the US Catholic Bishops Conference and the Catholic intellectual world. They include everyone from the philanthropist founder of Domino’s Pizza to six of the nine US Supreme Court justices.

Then there’s the priesthood.

Young priests driven by liberal politics and progressive theology, so common in the 1960s and 70s, have all but vanished.

In churches from Minnesota to California, liberal parishioners have protested changes introduced by new conservative priests. Each can seem like one more skirmish in the cultural and political battles tearing at America.

Looming above the American divide is Pope Francis, who has pushed the global church to be inclusive, even as he stands firm on dogma.

The orthodox movement has watched him nervously, angered by his more liberal views on issues like gay relationships and divorce. Some reject him entirely.

The US church has “a very strong reactionary attitude,” he said last year.

St Maria Goretti is a well-kept island of Catholicism tucked into one of America’s most liberal cities.

In 2021, a new priest, the Reverend Scott Emerson, was named pastor.

Parishioners watched the changes - some pleased, some uneasily. Emerson’s sermons are not all fire-and-brimstone. He often speaks about forgiveness and compassion. But his tone shocked many longtime parishioners.

Protection is needed, he said in a 2023 service, from “the spiritual corruption of worldly vices.” He has warned against critics – “the atheists, journalists, politicians, the fallen-away Catholics” – he said were undermining the church.

But those critics, he says, will be proven wrong. “How many have laughed at the church, announcing that she was passĂ©, that her days were over and that they would bury her?” he said in a 2021 Mass.

“The church,” he said, “has buried every one of her undertakers.”




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