Tuesday, December 12, 2006

I am wrong

I am wrong. Brilliantly, repeatedly and gloriously wrong. Today I wrote this. Today, less than 24 hours later, I will contradict myself. Because, sometimes 'traditional' knowledge does tell us something new.

I rather enjoy browsing DissectMedicine, Nature's equivalent to Digg. It's a nice idea however, it is sometimes taken over by spammers, those that want to pursue their own flakey agenda. So, when I see a story about a herbal extract that can treat obesity, submitted by a user with the name of the extract, linking to a page that sells the extract, I assume it's bunk.

However, I am uptight enough to dig a little deeper. First off, pubmed. Which returns absolutely nothing. Not a good start but it's always worth digging a little deeper. So, off to google. The first hit (that isn't an advert) is a BBC news story. The story is entirely uncritical and mentions that the rights have been licensed to a British pharmaceutical company that specialises in natural products, Phytopharm.

On their site is a Q&A sheet about their developement of Hoodia extract, which mentions a clinical trial. So, if a clinical trial has been performed, it may be on the register. But it isn't. If it isn't on the register, then it's not likely to be published because a lot of medical journals now insist that trials are registered before hand as a pre-requisite for publication. So, no chance of getting the results that way.

So, am I wrong? I want to believe that there's something in it. I tend to trust authority (a minor failing of mine probably), so I tend to believe Phytopharm when they say positive results were achieved. But I can't be sure without seeing the numbers. So, if anyone from Phytopharm is reading this, do drop me a line, I'd love to know more. Also, if you are reading this, do you want to give me a job? I'm looking for a new job at the moment, and it's a quick and easy way to shut me up!

As an aside, I'm trying out a footer that should allow this post to be submitted to DissectMedicine, let's see how it works.

Thursday, November 2, 2006

The BBC has an interesting headline, Wine 'allows guilt free gluttony'. This is reporting on a very interesting story prepublished in nature. I don't understand the use of the quotation marks here. None of the sources quoted in the story are quoted as saying that, so who said "allows guilt free gluttony"?

Beyond the nit-picking of a BBC headline, the story is very interesting. As many people know, restricting calorific intake in fruit flies and mice to one third of normal, prolongs survival. This is fine in laboratory conditions, where infectious disease is much less common, but some people have been quick to apply these findings to humans to recommend this diet to extend human lifespan.

Now, building on previous research, a natural product has been identified which has a similar effect in mice, through a similar mechanism. In mice fed a high calorie diet, resveratrol returns the survival rate to mice fed a normal calorie diet. As usual, In The Pipeline has the interesting details.

Now, according to the wikipedia article, red wine contains this compound, thus taking us full circle. So, needing little encouragement to slosh some red wine down my gullet, how much do I need to drink to stay slim? Well, the mice in the article were fed 22 mg/kg/day. Which is a fair amount. I guess I weigh about 80 kg, so that's 1760 mg I would need to consume per day. Non-mescadine red wine apparantly contains up to 5.8 mg/l, so based on that, I would need to consume 303 litres of red wine to feel the benefit. I suspect, however, that the ethanol may undo the benefit I may gain from my resveratrol. No matter! Muscadine type red wine, apparantly contains 40 mg/l, so I need only consume 44 litres of the stuff a day, far better!

Sadly, there is still no quick fix here, and red wine does not allow guilt-free gluttony.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

New blog toy!

Well google have released a new toy for us all to play with! Of course being a total google fanboy I can't resist the temptation, and so, if you scroll down the page, way down, just past the technorati tool, is the Science and Progress search box. It's got a few sites indexed to it and I'll keep adding them as I can.