Monthly Archives: October 2015

Fish on Prozac and painkillers

This is food for thought!

Fish on Prozac and painkillers

4 July, 2015

The happy but erratic behaviour of the fish in Finding Nemo might be explained by their exposure to antidepressants, opiates and benzodiazepines in the waters of Sydney Harbour, research suggests.

Significant levels of antidepressants, painkillers, beta blockers and other pharmaceuticals are present in Sydney’s harbours, bays and tributaries, according to environmental scientists writing in the Marine Pollution Bulletin.

The researchers, from the University of Sydney and the University of Queensland, analysed water samples from 30 sites adjacent to stormwater outlets across the Sydney estuary.

Out of the 59 common pharmaceuticals that were tested, eight were present in low levels in Sydney water samples.

Eight pharmaceuticals found in the Sydney estuary (maximum concentration detected shown in brackets)

  1. Paracetamol (67ng/L)
  2. Fluoxetine (36ng/L)
  3. Venlafaxine (32ng/L)
  4. Iopromide (13ng/L)
  5. Codeine (10ng/L)
  6. Propranolol (9ng/L)
  7. Tramadol (6ng/L)
  8. Carbamazepine (3ng/L)

The researchers say  pharmaceuticals commonly end up in wastewater after being excreted from the body.

Extra telephone lines have been installed at my new clinic, so it should be easier to get through to make appointments. The number is 0754 5315 8888.  Note the new address on my web site.



The Myth of Big, Bad Gluten

Some of the anti-glutenists argue that we haven’t eaten wheat for long enough to adapt to it as a species. Agriculture began just 12,000 years ago, not enough time for our bodies, which evolved over millions of years, primarily in Africa, to adjust. According to this theory, we’re intrinsically hunter-gatherers, not bread-eaters. If exposed to gluten, some of us will develop celiac disease or gluten intolerance, or we’ll simply feel lousy.

Most of these assertions, however, are contradicted by significant evidence, and distract us from our actual problem: an immune system that has become overly sensitive.

Wheat was first domesticated in southeastern Anatolia perhaps 11,000 years ago. (An archaeological site in Israel, called Ohalo II, indicates that people have eaten wild grains, like barley and wheat, for much longer — about 23,000 years.)

Is this enough time to adapt? To answer that question, consider how some populations have adapted to milk consumption. We can digest lactose, a sugar in milk, as infants, but many stop producing the enzyme that breaks it down — called lactase — in adulthood. For these “lactose intolerant” people, drinking milk can cause bloating and diarrhea. To cope, milk-drinking populations have evolved a trait called “lactase persistence”: the lactase gene stays active into adulthood, allowing them to digest milk.

Milk-producing animals were first domesticated about the same time as wheat in the Middle East. As the custom of dairying spread, so did lactase persistence. What surprises scientists today, though, is just how recently, and how completely, that trait has spread in some populations. Few Scandinavian hunter-gatherers living 5,400 years ago had lactase persistence genes, for example. Today, most Scandinavians do.

Here’s the lesson: Adaptation to a new food stuff can occur quickly — in a few millenniums in this case. So if it happened with milk, why not with wheat?

“If eating wheat was so bad for us, it’s hard to imagine that populations that ate it would have tolerated it for 10,000 years,” Sarah A. Tishkoff, a geneticist at the University of Pennsylvania who studies lactase persistence, told me.

For Dr. Bana Jabri, director of research at the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center, it’s the genetics of celiac disease that contradict the argument that wheat is intrinsically toxic.

Active celiac disease can cause severe health problems, from stunting and osteoporosis to miscarriage. It strikes a relatively small number of people — just around 1 percent of the population. Yet given the significant costs to fitness, you’d anticipate that the genes associated with celiac would be gradually removed from the gene pool of those eating wheat.

A few years ago, Dr. Jabri and the population geneticist Luis B. Barreiro tested that assumption and discovered precisely the opposite. Not only were celiac-associated genes abundant in the Middle Eastern populations whose ancestors first domesticated wheat; some celiac-linked variants showed evidence of having spread in recent millenniums.

People who had them, in other words, had some advantage compared with those who didn’t.

Dr. Barreiro, who’s at the University of Montreal, has observed this pattern in many genes associated with autoimmune disorders. They’ve become more common in recent millenniums, not less. As population density increased with farming, and as settled living and animal domestication intensified exposure to pathogens, these genes, which amp up aspects of the immune response, helped people survive, he thinks.

In essence, humanity’s growing filth selected for genes that increase the risk of autoimmune disease, because those genes helped defend against deadly pathogens. Our own pestilence has shaped our genome.

The benefits of having these genes (survival) may have outweighed their costs (autoimmune disease). So it is with the sickle cell trait: Having one copy protects against cerebral malaria, another plague of settled living; having two leads to congenital anemia.

But there’s another possibility: Maybe these genes don’t always cause quite as much autoimmune disease.

Perhaps the best support for this idea comes from a place called Karelia. It’s bisected by the Finno-Russian border. Celiac-associated genes are similarly prevalent on both sides of the border; both populations eat similar amounts of wheat. But celiac disease is almost five times as common on the Finnish side compared with the Russian. The same holds for other immune-mediated diseases, including Type 1 diabetes, allergies and asthma. All occur more frequently in Finland than in Russia.

WHAT’S the difference? The Russian side is poorer; fecal-oral infections are more common. Russian Karelia, some Finns say, resembles Finland 50 years ago. Evidently, in that environment, these disease-associated genes don’t carry the same liability.

Are the gluten haters correct that modern wheat varietals contain more gluten than past cultivars, making them more toxic? Unlikely, according to recent analysis by Donald D. Kasarda, a scientist with the United States Department of Agriculture. He analyzed records of protein content in wheat harvests going back nearly a century. It hasn’t changed.

Do we eat more wheat these days? Wheat consumption has, in fact, increased since the 1970s, according to the U.S.D.A. But that followed an earlier decline. In the late 19th century, Americans consumed nearly twice as much wheat per capita as we do today.

We don’t really know the prevalence of celiac disease back then, of course. But analysis of serum stored since the mid-20th century suggests that the disease was roughly one-fourth as prevalent just 60 years ago. And at that point, Americans ate about as much wheat as we do now.

Overlooked in all this gluten-blaming is the following: Our default response to gluten, says Dr. Jabri, is to treat it as the harmless protein it is — to not respond.

So the real mystery of celiac disease is what breaks that tolerance, and whatever that agent is, why has it become more common in recent decades?

An important clue comes from the fact that other disorders of immune dysfunction have also increased. We’re more sensitive to pollens (hay fever), our own microbes (inflammatory bowel disease) and our own tissues (multiple sclerosis).

Perhaps the sugary, greasy Western diet — increasingly recognized as pro-inflammatory — is partly responsible. Maybe shifts in our intestinal microbial communities, driven by antibiotics and hygiene, have contributed. Whatever the eventual answer, just-so stories about what we evolved eating, and what that means, blind us to this bigger, and really much more worrisome, problem: The modern immune system appears to have gone on the fritz.

Maybe we should stop asking what’s wrong with wheat, and begin asking what’s wrong with us.

Stress increases Breast Cancer risk.

Anti-stress hormone may provide indication of breast cancer risk

Lund University News, 07/16/2015

A new study from Lund University in Sweden shows that women with low levels of an anti–stress hormone have an increased risk of getting breast cancer. The study is the first of its kind on humans and confirms previous similar observations from animal experiments. The recent findings on a potential new marker for the risk of developing breast cancer are presented in the renowned Journal of Clinical Oncology. The study focused on a hormone which circulates freely in the blood, enkephalin, with pain– and anxiety–reducing properties. Enkephalin also reinforces the immune system by directly affecting immune cells. “This is the first time the role of enkephalin in breast cancer has been studied in humans, and the results were surprisingly clear. Among women with the lowest levels of the hormone, the risk of breast cancer was more than three times that of the women with the highest levels of the hormone. This is one of the strongest correlations between cancer risk and a freely circulating biomarker ever described”, said Olle Melander and Mattias Belting, both professors at Lund University and consultant physicians at Skane University Hospital.

The Move!

The move is proving to more difficult than expected. Everything that can go wrong has gone wrong. a number of you have complained about difficulty in getting through by phone: the staff are working overtime to try to rectify this problem. Transporting my appointments over from the old clinic to the new one (use a different format) is also proving difficult,(what else?). All I can plead is hang in and it will all come good in time. The clinic is magnificent, with a chemist, coffee shop, ER centre and more – so it will all be worth it in the end. Those of you having trouble finding the entrance – it is in George St Opposite Centrelink. Could not be easier.

Thank you all for your patience,


Dr Colin Holloway.


Doctors slam calcium and Vitamin D conflict of interest

Doctors slam calcium and Vitamin D conflict of interest

22 July, 2015 Amanda Davey 2 comments

Two New Zealand doctors have lambasted academics, advocacy organisations and companies that recommend calcium and vitamin D supplements to prevent or treat osteoporosis despite evidence that they don’t work.

They write in the BMJ that a focus on profit and vested interests over evidence-based research is fuelling this misguided advice.

Drs Andrew Grey and Mark Bolland from the University of Auckland argue that some prominent academics and specialist societies have undeclared commercial and academic conflicts of interest in the nutrition osteoporosis field.

Industry and its lobby groups are funding and influencing the activities and policies of osteoporosis advocacy organisations such as the European based International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF), they say.

In their paper, the researchers cite numerous examples of a “complex web” of interactions between industry, advocacy organisations and academia.

“After evidence accrued that calcium and vitamin D do not safely reduce fracture risk1, the nutrition industry continued to partner osteoporosis advocacy organisations to promote their widespread use,” they write.

“For example, in 2010 DSM, ‘the world’s largest manufacturer of vitamin D3’, partnered the IOF to produce a global vitamin D map, the launch of which was accompanied by claims that vitamin D deficiency is present throughout Europe and calls for more supplementation of older adults.

“Fonterra became the IOF Asia Pacific Regional Nutrition Partner in 2010 and has aligned with, and financially supported, osteoporosis advocacy groups throughout Asia.”

In 2014 the IOF partnered with food group Danone to promote the bone benefits of dairy products, and the US National Osteoporosis Foundation aligned with a leading drug company to promote its calcium supplement for skeletal health of older women.

Dr Grey says “disentangling industry from academia might improve the translation of evidence into practice”.

Furthermore, vitamin and food manufacturers should declare payments to doctors in the same way that drug companies do.

Advocacy organisations and specialist societies “should eschew corporate sponsorship, and academics should not engage with advocacy organisations until it is clear that such commercial ties have been severed”, he says.

  1.  BMJ study excerpt

“By the end of 2010, 14 large randomised trials of calcium supplements, vitamin D supplements, or their combination had been published: three reported reduction in fracture risk, nine no effect, and two increased fracture risk,Among 24 small randomised trials, 21 found no effect. Meta-analyses of these trials, when analysed by intention to treat, report either no effect on fracture risk or marginal risk reduction of doubtful clinical importance. A trial sequential analysis reported last year that sufficient evidence is available to conclude that vitamin D with or without calcium does not reduce total fracture risk by >10% and that additional trials are unlikely to alter that finding.\


Also read:

Secret to health benefits of sunshine is more than vitamin D

Warning: Soft Drinks May Be Bad for Your Health

Well - Tara Parker-Pope on Health

Warning: Soda May Be Bad for Your Health, San Francisco Says

San Francisco could soon be the first city in the country to place health warnings on advertisements for sugary drinks.

Lawmakers there voted unanimously this week in favor of a measure that would require a stark warning label – akin to the caution label on cigarettes – noting the link between sugary drink consumption and chronic disease. The warning labels would appear only on advertisements for sugary drinks, not on the products themselves, though a separate measure at the state level would require such warnings directly on soda cans and bottles.

“Warning,” the new label on the advertisements would read. “Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay. This is a message from the City and County of San Francisco.”


A proposed warning label for two-liter soda bottles.
A proposed warning label for two-liter soda bottles.Credit California Center for Public Health Advocacy

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors will decide whether to approve the ordinance next week and, barring a veto by the city’s mayor, Ed Lee, the law would take effect this summer. Mr. Lee has not publicly taken a position on the measure, but its supporters say he is open to it.

The measure was approved by San Francisco lawmakers on Tuesday along with two other proposals, one of which would ban all advertisements for sugary drinks on publicly owned property. The other would forbid the use of city funds for the purchase of sugary beverages.

Scott Wiener, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, which voted in support of the measure, said in a statement that requiring the health warnings on soda ads “makes clear that these drinks aren’t harmless – indeed, quite the opposite.”

“San Francisco has sent a clear message that we need to do more to protect our community’s health,” he said.

Mr. Wiener’s office said that in San Francisco, the financial impact of sugary drinks exceeded $50 million “even when only considering diabetes and obesity,” and that one in three children today are expected to develop diabetes in their lifetime.

If it receives final approval next week, the new measure would require the health warning on billboards and posters in San Francisco, as well as on ads for sugary beverages displayed in stadiums, on bus stops and on vehicles. Advertisements in newspapers, magazines and on the Internet would not be included.

The measure would apply to sugar-sweetened drinks with 25 calories or more, including sodas, sports drinks and iced teas. But milk and some natural fruit and vegetable juice drinks would be excluded. The warning labels would take up at least 20 percent of the ad space.

Last year San Francisco failed to enact a tax on sugary drinks through a ballot initiative. The tax was fiercely opposed by industry groups, which spent millions fighting it. About 56 percent of voters supported the ballot initiative, but that figure fell short of the two-thirds majority required for the special tax to pass.

Berkeley, San Francisco’s neighbor, enacted a soda tax last year,becoming the first city in the country to do so.

A spokesman for the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, a nonprofit organization, hailed the new San Francisco measure and said that the “natural next step is to take similar policies to the state level by requiring warning labels on the products itself.”

The group helped sponsor legislation that would require warning labels on all sugary drink cans, dispensers and vending machines in California. The legislation passed the State Senate but died in the Assembly. A similar bill was introduced this year and will most likely be voted on in 2016.

Moving Again!!

My last move was not satisfactory, so I have moved again, hopefully for the long-term. My new address is:

The Caboolture SuperClinic,

Corner George and Bertha Street,


Tel No 5315 8888

From the Sunshine coast or Brisbane, exit at the Main Caboolture-Bribie island turnoff. Go straight down King street, and turn right into George St, which is just past the Caboolture Park shopping centre. The Clinic is 2 blocks further on. There is plenty of parking.

The Caboolture train station is less than a kilometer away, so coming by train is an option.