Saturday, March 05, 2011

Being fat rots your brain?

A remarkable insult to the large numbers of overweight people. Fortunately it is just epidemiological speculation. Let me offer an alternative explanation: Lower class people are more likely to be fat and lower class people are generally less healthy. So all we are seeing is another effect of social class, not an effect of obesity as such

MORE than 1000 Australians every week are diagnosed with dementia and for many the cause is not merely genetic bad luck but a result of being overweight in middle age.

A new analysis of long-term studies of the relationship between dementia and bodyweight has found that people who have been overweight or obese have two to three times the risk of suffering dementia in old age a few years later.

The Australian National University's Centre for Mental Health Research reached that conclusion after assessing the results of reputable studies from around the world involving a total of more than 25,000 people. Kaarin Anstey, a professor at the centre, said the risk of dementia for those aged over 60 rises with bodyweight in earlier middle life, between the ages of 40 and 60.

"This evidence suggests that, while the hormones present in body fat were previously believed to protect cognitive function, it now appears that excess fat in middle age may be extremely harmful over the long term," Professor Anstey said.

The analysis also found that there was a higher risk of dementia in old age among those who had been extremely underweight in middle age, but Professor Anstey said it was likely different processes were involved in triggering that phenomenon.

"Practitioners and policy-makers should be concerned, not just with the short-term effects obesity has on quality of life, but also about the long-term effects that obesity can have on the ageing process."

Professor Anstey said given the results covered people who were much less likely to have been overweight in their youth than today, the results were a warning bell for the future.

The findings underline the need for policy makers to treat dementia not just as a condition of old age but as a chronic disease which can be countered with improved healthcare and education, Glenn Rees, the chief executive of Alzheimer's Australia, said.

Mr Rees said health policies needed to promote the message that a healthy lifestyle not only reduced the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer but also improved brain health.

There also remained difficulties in even ensuring the timely diagnosis of dementia, with sufferers in some cases taking up to three years to be diagnosed, raising the risk of falls and hospitalisation.


Melanesian influx into Australia based on a failed legal claim

There are millions of them to Australia's immediate North who have a proven inability to get on with one-another so live in a very chaotic and poor society. Letting any of them into Australia would produce a flood of them. The Australian government is so far sending them all back, however

Australian immigration officials are advising a group of Papua New Guineans to scrap their plan to try to travel to Australia illegally in a few weeks' time. More than 100 Papuans will make the perilous journey to draw attention to their call to be granted Australian citizenship.

The trip's organiser says among them will be two fuzzy wuzzy angels who helped Australian soldiers during World War II.

Late last year, a similar flotilla, carrying a similar number of people, tried to cross the Torres Strait in small boats. Most of the dinghies were picked up by immigration officials or turned back to Papua New Guinea. One craft carrying 10 people managed to land on Cape York before those on board were arrested.

The group's organiser, Johnathan Baure, says it is only a matter of weeks before the group makes another attempt. "We have already more dinghies and even canoes," he told Radio Australia's Asia Pacific program. "There were two other guys who are going to go on this trip now and they are fuzzy wuzzy angels."

The group is trying to draw attention to their fight to gain Australian citizenship. They claim they were not given the choice of Australian citizenship when Papua New Guinea gained independence from Australia in 1975. Two Australian High Court battles have been lost over the issue.

Mr Baure does not deny the dangerous of the trip across open sea. "Every member of our community, I ask them and I repeat to them clearly that there is risk involved. Each one of them make their stance, and some of them decide to take their children," he said. "Obviously that is their right to decide and I have no control over that area."

It cost Australia's Immigration Department at least $250,000 to process and return the group that came across last December.

Department spokesman Sandi Logan warned that making another attempt would be futile and dangerous, and the boats will be confiscated and people detained. Mr Logan says those who believe they are eligible to gain Australian citizenship should lodge formal applications. "In fact there are a few claims at the moment - around 40 or so claims from this group - as a result of their last endeavour. That is the correct channel," he said.

After the last trip, Papua New Guinean officials charged Mr Baure with fraud and immigration offences, allegations he refutes. He appeared in court on Thursday to face the charges.

Mr Baure said that during the hearing, the judge accused the prosecution of being unprepared and ordered it to provide relevant documentation to the court within a fortnight before the case can continue.



Three current articles below

Wind farms hurting rural communities

WIND turbines are closing in on four generations of the Quinn family who still live at Mt Bryan in South Australia's picturesque and productive Mt Lofty Ranges.

Rosemary Quinn, 74, says she spends her nights locked inside the 1900s stone house she has occupied for 55 years. She shuts the windows and sets the ceiling fan on high to cover the noise of the wind turbines 2km away.

Quinn's son Bill and his wife Jenny are about to gamble their 200ha property in a Federal Court challenge to the expansion plans of wind farm developer AGL.

Bill Quinn's daughter Deb, 32, who works for businesses that profit from the wind farm developments, is worried about the future of her daughter, Jacqueline, and what long-term exposure to nearby wind turbines may mean.

The Quinns are not alone.

They are part of an increasingly vocal army of people in rural settlements who believe they have become collateral damage in Australia's rush to embrace wind as an alternative energy to combat climate change.

Stories such as the Quinns', and much, much worse, are scattered through the more than 1000 submissions to a Senate inquiry into the effect of wind farm developments on rural communities.

The inquiry by the Senate community affairs committee has certainly received many submissions of support for wind-farm developments to meet the federal government's 20 per cent renewable energy target by 2020. Local community and sporting groups have praised the donations they have received.

But alongside the positive feedback are stories of gag orders, split communities, strongarm tactics and details of awful physical symptoms that people feel sure are the result of living in the auditory and sun-flicker shadow of wind turbine developments that are sweeping the rural landscape.

Family First senator Steve Fielding, who pushed for the Senate inquiry, says: "This is not a question about the viability of renewable technologies. It is to have a look at any adverse health effects for people living in close proximity."

He says the Senate committee has approached the inquiry with an open mind, but "certainly there are people whose health has deteriorated to the stage that they have had to move out at a complete loss to themselves".

Glenn Brew of Evansford in Victoria, near the controversial Waubra wind farm, has told the committee he was beginning to think he had a brain tumour until he discovered that other farmers in the area were experiencing headaches similar to his when they were close to the turbines.

Steven Hilary, 50, also of Waubra, has told the committee he is convinced the turbines pose a serious health risk.

"On April 22nd at 4am I suffered a heart attack and to date I have been continually suffering blood pressure issues, heart palpitations, headaches, dizziness, nausea, unbearable tinnitus and disrupted sleep patterns that led to numerous ambulance trips to hospital," he wrote.

The Senate inquiry clearly has opened a can of worms: affected rural residents believe city dwellers with a penchant for green power have been happy to ignore the situation. Despite what opponents may say, this is not a community backlash that can be dismissed as being rooted in climate change denial or greed.

When Rosemary Quinn first heard wind turbines were coming to her area she visited the already established wind farm developments at Yorke Peninsula and Cape Jervis to have a look. "I thought they were a terrific invention and we really needed to get all this green power," she says.

"People now just say I have got a set against them and if they passed us a lot of money it would be all right, but I had a sermon in church this morning that money doesn't matter. I don't want their money, I just want some peace and quiet in the last months of my life."

Sarah Laurie, a South Australian GP who has become a rallying point for people concerned about health effects from living near wind turbines, also cannot be written off as a stalking horse for big coal or the nuclear industry, as her detractors would suggest.

Laurie has worked among South Australia's Aboriginal communities on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara lands, where her husband still works as a travelling dentist.

She is a progressive with rooftop solar panels on her Crystal Brook property, and has alienated some friends by asking inconvenient questions about the green revolution. "I still am supportive of wind turbines in the right place," Laurie says. "I believe it is a siting issue primarily and we need to get the information in order to site the turbines safely.

"We have a window of opportunity now to get this right. If we don't I am concerned there is an unfolding public disaster. "This is not a NIMBY [not in my back yard] issue," Laurie says. "I don't think they should be in anybody's back yard."

All Laurie is requesting is that rigorous tests, independent of the industry or concerned residents, be carried out. Laurie knows her research, which catalogues a series of health effects among those living near wind turbines, will always be considered tainted by the fact there is a proposal for a wind farm near her own property. But her findings mirror the results of other research that has also struggled for official recognition from the wind industry and government agencies.


Brown's green jobs to deindustrialise Australia

Dr Oliver Marc Hartwich

Politicians love ‘creating’ jobs, especially when these jobs serve a ‘greater good,’ such as fighting climate change. Greens leader Bob Brown recently praised Germany’s renewable energy policy.

Brown believes that investment in green technologies saved Germany’s economy from the global financial crisis. This in itself is a questionable assertion: the German GDP fell by 4.7% in 2009, and despite a 3.6% growth in 2010, output has not returned to pre-crisis levels.

Senator Brown also claims that ‘330,000 extra jobs have been created in Germany because of legislation moving to a clean, green energy future.’ If only.

The figure of 330,000 green energy jobs may well be true if you add up all employees working in industries such as wind energy, biomass and solar power. But were these ‘extra’ jobs ‘created’ as a result of green legislation? And at what cost?

First, it is necessary to count the costs of the alleged green jobs miracle. A study by the respected economic research institute RWI concluded that every single worker in these industries had been supported to the tune of €175,000 ($240,000). Given this enormous subsidy, it is remarkable how few jobs have been created.

In Germany, subsidies for renewable energies are paid for by energy users. Renewable energy suppliers can feed their production into the grid at guaranteed high prices; the additional cost of green electricity is passed on to private and business energy users.

As consumers have to pay more for power than they would have otherwise, they cannot spend the money elsewhere. Job losses then occur in other industries. In particular, high energy costs threaten energy-intensive industries such aluminium smelting, steel and cement.

The future of Germany’s largest aluminium smelter Rheinwerk, employing more than 600 people in the city of Neuss, hangs in the balance as high energy costs leave it uncompetitive. The weekly Die Zeit recently reported that Rheinwerk is only producing at 10% capacity despite a growing global demand for aluminium.

Aluminium is not an exception. According to the RWI study, net employment effects of green energies are minimal and may well be negative. Instead of creating ‘extra’ jobs, renewable energies are destroying jobs. These lost jobs are dispersed across the economy and not always easy to spot.

This week, EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger warned that high energy taxes had triggered a ‘creeping process of deindustrialisation’ in Germany. As regulatory elements accounted for more than 40% of energy costs, companies were moving their activities abroad, he said. Far from creating green industries, German eco-subsidies have led to industrial decline.

Maybe that is what Senator Brown would like to see in Australia as well.

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated 4 March Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.

Carbon tax no climate cure-all: Lomborg

CARBON taxes can do little to change global warming, controversial Danish political scientist Bjørn Lomborg said in Australia this week, but it could fund a genuine solution. In Dr Lomborg's view, that solution lies in the ubiquitous availability of cheap green energy.

"The current solution is to make fossil fuels so expensive that nobody will want them," Dr Lomborg said, adding that this is "economically inefficient and politically impossible".

Instead, he thinks the world should be innovating "to make green energy so cheap that everyone will want it". "This is not about subsidies to green energy, it's about innovation."

Dr Lomborg, currently an adjunct professor at Copenhagen Business School, is the author of The Skeptical Environmentalist and Cool It. He is often branded a climate change skeptic, but his skepticism is these days directed more at the economic solutions proposed to address climate change.

"Global warming is real, it's a man-made problem, it's something we need to fix," he said on Tuesday. "Any economist would say that CO2 is bad and it should be taxed in principle."

However, he added, "The best economic analysis suggests that damage cost of CO2 is about $7 a tonne. So by all means (impose a tax) but it will reduce CO2 emissions very little." "Focusing on the tax is putting the cart before the horse. What we really need to do is focus on the innovation, and a carbon tax is a way to fund that innovation."

Citing Richard Tol, a climate economist who believes the potential effects of climate change are overplayed, Dr Lomborg poured cold economic water on the long-term benefits of a direct assault on fossil fuels. His assessment of the Kyoto Protocol is that it would cost about $180 billion per year by 2100, and reduce global temperatures by 0.00°C.

Dr Tol's modelling of the objective to reduce global temperatures by 2°C by 2100 came up with a bill of $40,000 billion per year, with each dollar spent avoiding only two cents of climate damage.

"We fail to remember that we don't burn fossil fuels to annoy Al Gore," Dr Lomborg observed. "We burn fossil fuels because they power virtually everything we like."

His solution, which he says stems from the work of several leading economists, including a handful of Nobel winners, is to direct 0.2 per cent of global GDP toward research and development of breakthrough green energy technologies. The cost would be about $100 billion a year ($1.6 billion for Australia), with a claimed return of $11 for each dollar invested.

"I don't think we should focus on a particular issue—solar or wind. Some things won't come through. Those that do will power the rest of the 21st Century." "Fundamentally, it's a much cheaper way to do much more good."


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