A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).



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Very small trial appears to reverse Alzheimers symptoms

I like to keep an eye on research on keeping our brains intact (even if it’s not far past the leeches-and-arsenic stage). Here is a tiny trial showing a bit of promise. After years of testing drugs on Alzheimer plaques without much luck, as far as I can tell, this study had the radical idea of doing a bit of everything that had seemed to delay Alzheimers — like exercise, dumping the carbs, mini-fasts, fish oil, meditation and things like that. Unlike the drug trials, this one actually seemed to work and surprisingly for as many as 9 out of 10 patients (there were only ten patients, that’s not a ratio). It’s quite neat that it did work. It has lots of potential (though not much in the way of profits for big-pharma). However it was only six months long. It may not be slowing the plaques, but then if it restores functional memory, that’s rather the point (though I worry those plaques are coming back later).

Nonetheless, if you like the idea of saving your brain. Worth reading the list below, just so you know and pass it on to those with an interest. Anything that helps, especially when […]

The fat police won’t be happy about this…

Remember the experts who said we should drink skim milk? A new large study suggests that full fat milk is healthier. So much for that consensus about saturated fat. There have been signs things were amiss. A few studies recently have shown that milk, yogurt and cheese consumption were associated with a lower incidence of Diabetes Type 2. Dairy didn’t seem to make the heart attacks more likely either. Hmm. So this new study of 26,000 women looked at high fat versus low fat dairy products. Over 14 years the highest consumption (which is 8, crikey, portions of full fat dairy a day) is associated with … a 23% reduction in risk compared to the low fat dairy consumers. Time to eat more Brie? Maybe, maybe not.

I won’t be taking up 8 portions of full fat dairy myself — the 23% figure is not seismic, is based on a modeled estimate (so is open to debate). I suspect it’s not the fat content that is the most important thing here, but something else entirely. The “displacement effect” confounds this sort of study. It might not be that dairy fat is so helpful, just that it is less bad that […]

Cutting calories can stop cancer cells from spreading

Something different to discuss – for the medical-revolution cynics among us. Cells from a human triple-negative breast cancer were implanted in mice under their mammary fat pads. Triple negative breast cancer is a nastier form of breast cancer which is harder to treat because these cells don’t respond to the usual anti-estrogenic drugs.

The mice were then allowed to eat only 70% as many calories as they would normally freely choose to eat. This is a particularly interesting study because it shows that calorie restriction inhibited the expression of certain micro RNAs even from foreign (non mouse) implanted breast cancer cells, and this apparently kept the cancer from spreading. Notably fatalities from cancers don’t usually come from the initial solid tumor but from the metastasized version, so this is potentially very useful.

The mechanism involves strengthening the matrix around the cancer cells. When these cancer cells have metastasized they produce more of these particular micro RNA’s which in turn appear to stop production of proteins that strengthen the extracellular matrix. In other words, the cancer cells probably use the micro RNA’s to degrade the cellular matrix around them in order to spread. The implications of this are both that the […]

There goes another consensus. Crash diets solve diabetes in 3 weeks

Sometimes the consensus deniers are right, which is exactly why the term is so pointless and so profoundly unscientific.

The medical associations were unequivocal. Crash diets were a fad, unhealthy, and only slow sensible weight loss could work. So millions of people were fed expensive drugs for decades, monitored, and some even given risky bariatric surgery. Patients with Type II diabetes were expected to be treated for years, or possibly the rest of their lives. Nearly a tenth of the national health budget of the UK was spent managing diabetes. Fully 8% of the population have the condition in the US.

Now a new (albeit very very small) study cured diabetes in some cases in as little as a week with a diet that was thought to be bad.

In the trial the very low calorie diet was done for 8 weeks. Sticking to 600 calories a day is not easy (some reports say it was 800 cals). It’s about a quarter of what a normal guy would eat. But it shrinks fat in the pancreas and liver, and that seemingly returns insulin levels to normal. The really amazing thing is that the benefits turn out to stay around far […]