Saturday, October 28, 2006

Meat good for you, say Australian science experts

The first edition of the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet has knocked The Da Vinci Code and Harry Potter off the top of the Australian bestseller list. Its sequel, launched yesterday, is expected to be as popular. A feature of the revised scientific diet book, which recommends a high-protein meat diet, is a comprehensive six-week exercise program.

The sequel was launched in Sydney by Federal Minister for Education, Science and Training Julie Bishop and CSIRO chief executive Dr Geoff Garrett, who spoke about his own weight loss after using the book's methods. Mrs Bishop said Australians had a long way to go in terms of getting fit. She said 30 per cent of Australians under 25 had high blood pressure and more than half the population was overweight. "Sixty per cent of an adult population [being overweight] in a country like Australia with magnificent weather and the opportunity to be outdoors and be physically fit is just not acceptable," Mrs Bishop said. She said insufficient physical activity caused about 8000 preventable deaths annually and cost the health budget $400 million each year.

The authors of the book, which recommends a 12-week eating plan, Dr Manny Noakes and Dr Peter Clifton, warned Australia would struggle to deal with a looming health crisis. Dr Grant Brinkworth, who developed the exercise regime, demonstrated stretches to be used in conjunction with the diet tips.

Criticisms that the first book recommended a diet that was overly based on red meat are answered in a chapter titled "Is red meat a risk factor for colorectal cancer". "The evidence that eating red meat, or any single food, is a risk for colorectal cancer is weak at best, compared to the proven negative effects of being overweight and inactive," the book states.

Recipes range from corn fritters with smoked salmon and spinach to lamb biryani.


Ritalin junkies warning

Prescribing Ritalin to children could be breeding a generation of junkies. The drug, commonly used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), may be wiring children's brains for amphetamine addiction later in life.

Addiction expert Andrew Lawrence, from Melbourne's Howard Florey Institute, has found that amphetamines given to adolescent rats put them at greater risk of addiction in adulthood.

This means the 50,000 Australian children who take Ritalin -- an amphetamine-like stimulant with a similar chemical structure to cocaine, may be at risk. "We found that when a teenage rat is given amphetamines and then, after abstinence, has the drug again as an adult, they have a more sensitised reaction, opening the door for addiction," he said.

The researchers found adult rats became more susceptible to heart attack after this pattern of drug-taking. This year it was reported that children as young as five had suffered heart attacks after taking Ritalin.

The above article appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on October 22, 2006

A sad loss

Tourists and residents have never known speed limits on the long, straight roads of the Northern Territory, an area in Australia that is five times the size of the United Kingdom. Carmakers are even drawn to the region to test high-speed models on the thousands of miles of open road. But, faced with the worst road safety figures in the developed world, the regional parliament has decided to impose speed limits on the last unrestricted roads in the southern hemisphere.

A report tabled yesterday in the Northern Territory parliament in Darwin said that the high speeds combined with frequent drink driving, an aversion to wearing seatbelts and a blatant disregard for red lights combined to produce unusually high road fatality statistics. The road fatality rate in the Northern Territory, Australia's least-populated region, which stretches from the far north to the centre of the country, is 26 deaths per 100,000 people - the rate in the United Kingdom is 6 per 100,000.

Clare Martin, the chief minister of the Northern Territory, raised the prospect of speed limits, saying: "We Territorians drink and drive, we travel too far without rest, we drive too fast. We run red lights and we don't wear seatbelts." But she faces a tough challenge in convincing her electorate of the benefits of a 110 km/h (70mph) speed limit on all the main roads of the Northern Territory, including the 3,000km (1,800-mile) Stuart Highway south to Adelaide.

Territorians argue that the vast distances between towns and sparse traffic make high speeds a necessity. Terry Mills, an opposition MP, said yesterday: "There is no clear link between speed on our open roads and fatalities. They are largely caused by alcohol and a failure to wear seatbelts. So it would be a very naive approach to attack this [speed] issue. We need to stand by Territorians and leave things as they are."

The report tabled yesterday in the parliament argued that the case for speed limits was overwhelming. It said: "More than half of all fatal crashes in the NT are run-off-road or overturned crashes that imply loss of control and excessive speed. No matter how safely you drive, you are at risk from other motorists travelling at high speed."

But manufacturers of high-speed cars gave warning that speed limits would reduce the appeal of the region as a testing ground for new models. Paul Ellis, spokesman for Porsche Australia, said that the company tested its cars there for speed and heat. Four six-cylinder 911 Turbos and three support vehicles were put through their paces in the Territory for two weeks in August, he said. Mr Ellis added that if speed limits were introduced the Territory would also lose the economic benefits of testing teams spending weeks in its hotels and restaurants.


Youth obesity blamed on lack of exercise

The federal government has accused schools of contributing to child obesity by cutting back on physical education. State governments claimed federal parliamentary secretary for health Christopher Pyne was trying to shift the blame when he called on them to reintroduce compulsory sport in schools. They said sport and physical education were already mandatory at primary and secondary school level.

But Mr Pyne accused the state Labor governments of being "cute" in defining sport and said they were not promoting inter-school competition and after-school practice. "Their definition of what they regard as compulsory school sport is different to the traditional inter-school sporting competition and after-school activity," Mr Pyne said. "Some schools include drama, human movement and dance in their physical activity. "And if what the states are doing is adequate, why has the federal government had to introduce a $90 million after-school-hours activity program in state schools?"

Mr Pyne said the states' assessment of their commitment to school sport should not include the two hours of physical activity they must prove their schools are doing to qualify for commonwealth funding. Speaking at a Committee for Economic Development of Australia conference in Sydney, he said the state Labor governments had been misdirecting the blame for the obesity problem. "Labor has been diverting the blame, pointing the finger at fatty foods while slashing funding to exercise programs in schools and moving away from compulsory physical education as part of the curriculum," he said. "We need to bring back school sports and compulsory physical education."

NSW Education Minister Carmel Tebbutt said her state's schools were playing their part, but she used the commonwealth's two-hour minimum as the benchmark. "It is mandatory for primary school students to complete 120 minutes of planned physical activity each week and students in Years 7 to 10 complete an estimated 80 minutes a week," Ms Tebbutt said. "Students in Years 7 to 11 also participate in 80 to 120 minutes of school sport each week." Queensland Premier Peter Beattie said Mr Pyne's comments were another example of shifting blame to the states. He said Queensland was doing more than any other state to tackle childhood obesity through its Eat Well and Get Active programs. Rather than blaming states for not doing enough, the federal government should legislate to restrict television advertisements for junk food, he said. "Instead we have a federal government pointing the finger at everybody else," Mr Beattie said. A Victorian government spokesman said sport and physical education had been in the curriculum at government schools for several years. And in the Northern Territory, Education Minister Paul Henderson said students spend about half-an-hour exercising each day.

Federal opposition health spokeswoman Julia Gillard, also speaking at the CEDA conference, responded to Mr Pyne's claims that Labor was focusing on food rather than exercise in typical schoolyard style. "Well, der, of course it's both," Ms Gillard said.


1 comment:

Colin Campbell said...

The State Government here in South Australia has recently canned a multi million dollar program putting real money into sport in schools and replacing it with a medal based program, if you exercise for an hour for part of the year. Great timing when the focus is on overweight and obese kids.