February 6, 2012
By Rob Lyons
On Thursday, high-profile science journal Nature published a commentary by three academics, which argued that sugar is a toxin and that it should be subject to similar kinds of public-health interventions as alcohol. In other words, sugar should be taxed and restricted just like booze.
One of the authors, Robert Lustig, runs an obesity clinic at a children’s hospital, part of the University of California, San Francisco. His colleagues and fellow authors, Laura Schmidt and Claire Brindis, are researchers in healthy policy. Lustig has gained an online following since 2009 for a lecture entitled ‘Sugar: the Bitter Truth’. While Lustig’s tone is rather melodramatic, there does appear to be a growing body of evidence linking refined carbohydrates and a group of related symptoms – obesity, fatty liver disease, type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease – that come together under the broad umbrella of ‘metabolic syndrome’.
It’s certainly the case that these chronic diseases have increased in importance in recent decades (in part because of the decline of infectious disease). Consumption of refined carbohydrates – particularly sugar – has increased, too. America has a particularly sweet tooth; the average American consumes 131 pounds (about 59 kg) of sugar and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) per year, up from 113 pounds per person in 1966. A teaspoon of sugar weighs about 4g, so this amounts to 40 teaspoons per person per day. (And remember, that’s an average – some people are consuming considerably more.)
The UK has a pretty sweet tooth, too. A survey for the Food Standards Agency in Scotland in 2008 found that 17 per cent of children’s calorie intake was coming from ‘non-milk extrinsic sugars’ – that is, table sugar and sugar added to food. That adds up to about 20 teaspoons per child per day.
So, we have rising rates of diseases related to metabolic syndrome alongside increased sugar consumption. Sucrose (the kind used as table sugar) and HFCS are regarded as particularly problematic by many researchers because they are both mad up of two simpler sugars, glucose and fructose. Glucose induces the production of insulin and would seem, therefore, to be a reasonable suspect in problems of insulin resistance and diabetes, with knock-on effects to do with obesity. Fructose, though it sounds healthy because it is also found in fruit, is practically Public Enemy No.1 for some health researchers due to its effects on the liver and in relation to heart disease. Thus, some see the consumption of sucrose and HFCS as a dietary double-whammy that significantly increases the risk of a number of chronic diseases.
January 11, 2012
By Jonathan Benson
No matter how many times the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) claims the machines are safe and pose no threat to travelers or personnel, naked body scanners that emit ionizing radiation are, indeed, a very serious health threat. And Dr. Edward Dauer, head of radiology at Florida Medical Center, agrees, having recently come forward to explain that naked body scanners can cause cancer, particularly in those over age 65 and in women who are said to be genetically prone to developing breast cancer.
“I think it’s potentially a real danger to the public,” Dr. Dauer is quoted as saying by the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Contrary to popular belief, even the so-called “small doses” of radiation emitted from the machines are toxic, and represent “additional exposure” that could lead to the onset of cancer.
The TSA continues to insist that the ionizing radiation emitted from its backscatter X-ray naked body scanner is minimal, and that individuals are exposed to far more background radiation every single day just living their normal lives. But the agency has not provided any solid proof to back this claim, and many experts say that the radiation emitted is concentrated on the skin in a much more harmful way.
In fact, a group of scientists from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), has publicly countered the TSA’s claim that naked body scanners are no more dangerous than background radiation. The group says this claim is highly “misleading” because background radiation on airplanes, for instance, is absorbed by the whole body, whereas during a naked body scan, it is focused directly on the skin and its underlying tissues.