http://www.smh.com.au/news/opinion/relax-sugar-is-sweet/2008/12/27/1229998788319.html


Relax, sugar is sweet  
Simon Webster
December 28, 2008

SUGAR does not make children hyperactive, scientists say. However, they could 
not conclusively comment on its effect on octogenarians, which may explain why 
Nana Pat was dancing the can-can on the kitchen table on Christmas night after 
finishing off the bowl of mini Cherry Ripes.
As for the kids, it must have been something else that made them spin like 
whirling dervishes until they had drilled holes in the floorboards, festoon the 
house with glitter-laced chocolate vomit and swing from the light fittings like 
rabid baboons, because sugar has been given the all clear.

At least 12 double blind randomised controlled trials have examined how 
children react to diets containing different levels of sugar, Dr Rachel Vreeman 
and Dr Aaron Carroll from the Indiana University School of Medicine reported in 
the British Medical Journal this month. None - even those looking at children 
with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder or "sugar-sensitive" children - 
found any difference in behaviour between those who had eaten sugar and those 
who had not.

The differences in behaviour existed only in parents' minds.

"When parents think their children have been given a drink containing sugar 
[even if it is really sugar-free], they rate their children's behaviour as more 
hyperactive," Vreeman and Carroll wrote.

This is great news for sugar manufacturers, which now just have to find 
evidence dismissing sugar's links with tooth decay, diabetes, heart disease and 
obesity, among other things.

Parents convinced that more than their imagination is at work after their 
children have consumed certain food or drinks might want to consider the 
artificial colours and preservatives on the label.

In more food news, science has found that contrary to popular belief, nocturnal 
feasting does not make you fat, Vreeman and Carroll wrote.

Numerous studies have concluded that it doesn't matter when you eat; weight 
gain is all about calories consumed versus exercise taken. You can eat more as 
long as you move more. It's a formula that has served Nana Pat well.

However, the article was not all good cheer. Alas, with New Year's Eve 
approaching, it seems there is no cure for a hangover. An exhaustive study 
(featuring exhausted volunteers by the end of it) found that purported hangover 
cures propranolol, tropisetron, tolfenamic acid, fructose, glucose, borage, 
artichoke, prickly pear and Vegemite all failed to do the job. But researchers 
did stumble across the surprisingly refreshing borage, artichoke, prickly pear 
and Vegemite cocktail, which has since become popular in fashionable New York 
nightclubs.

The best way to beat a hangover is to consume alcohol only in moderation or not 
at all, Vreeman and Carroll wrote. The connection between hangovers and the 
perception that the kids are running around a lot and making too much noise was 
not investigated.

Of course, the search for a hangover cure will go on, and eco-website 
Treehugger came up with a heady brew of clean, green suggestions last week. 
Among them were yoga (a couple of salutes to the sun and a series of moderate 
twists to "wring" the alcohol out of the system), wheatgrass, rescue remedy, 
coconut water and a play in the snow.

The last option has been shown to work particularly well for Australians at 
this time of year, as all traces of a hangover are generally gone by the end of 
an 18-hour flight to the Rocky Mountains, leaving the protagonist ready to 
start drinking again.

Should he or she have flown with Qantas and arrived without luggage, Vreeman 
and Carroll have some good advice to help prioritise when it comes to clothes 
shopping: don't worry too much about a beanie.

Despite what almost everyone believes, we do not lose a particularly high 
amount of heat through our heads. Any uncovered part of the body loses heat and 
reduces body temperature proportionally.

The US Army field manual for survival recommends a hat in cold weather because 
"40 to 45 per cent of body heat" is lost through the head.

"If this were true, humans would be just as cold if they went without trousers 
as if they went without a hat," the pair wrote. "But patently this is just not 
the case."

The myth is understood to date back to a military study in which soldiers were 
dressed in arctic survival suits but no hats. It was discovered that lots of 
heat was lost through the head. But that's because it was the only thing 
uncovered.

And to think they call it military intelligence.

Of course, hats should be considered essential items for anyone venturing 
outside in Australia at this time of year, not least to offer protection from 
flying beer bottles when revellers discover there is no cure for a hangover and 
decide to give the grog away.

Also busted in the British Medical Journal article was the myth that suicide 
rates go up in the Christmas holidays. Studies in the US, Japan and Ireland 
have found that they do not; and in some studies suicide rates went down.

Maybe the festive season is good for us after all. Have a happy and healthy new 
year.

swebs...@fastmail.com.au

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