Thursday, October 23, 2008

Leukaemia drug halts, reverses MS symptoms

By Alice Ritchie in Cambridge

BRITISH researchers say they have found that a drug, originally developed to treat leukaemia, can halt and even reverse the debilitating effects of multiple sclerosis (MS).

In trials, alemtuzumab reduced the number of attacks in sufferers and also helped them recover lost functions, apparently allowing damaged brain tissue to repair so that individuals were less disabled than at the start of the study.

"The ability of an MS drug to promote brain repair is unprecedented," said Dr Alasdair Coles, a lecturer at Cambridge university's department of clinical neurosciences, who coordinated many aspects of the study.

"We are witnessing a drug which, if given early enough, might effectively stop the advancement of the disease and also restore lost function by promoting repair of the damaged brain tissue."

The MS Society, Britain's largest support charity for those affected by the condition, said it was "delighted" at the trial's results, which must be followed up with more research before the drug can be licensed.

"This is the first drug that has shown the potential to halt and even reverse the debilitating effects of MS and this news will rightly bring hope to people living with the condition day in, day out," said head of research Lee Dunster.

MS is an auto-immune disease that affects millions of people worldwide. It is caused by the body's immune system attacking nerve fibres in the central nervous system, and can lead to loss of sight and mobility, depression, fatigue and cognitive problems. There is no cure and few effective treatments.

In the trial, 334 patients diagnosed with early-stage relapsing-remitting MS who had not previously been treated were given alemtuzumab or interferon beta-1a, one of the most effective licensed therapies for similar MS cases.

After three years, alemtuzumab was found to reduce the number of attacks the patients suffered by 74 per cent over the other treatment, and reduce the risk of sustained accumulation of disability by 71 per cent over interferon beta-1a.

Many individuals who took alemtuzumab also recovered some of their lost functions, becoming less disabled by the end, while the disabilities of the other patients worsened, the study in the New England Journal of Medicine said.

Alastair Compston, professor of neurology and head of the clinical neurosciences department at Cambridge, said alemtuzumab was the "most promising" experimental drug for the treatment of MS.

He expressed hope that further trials "will confirm that it can both stabilise and allow some recovery of what had previously been assumed to be irreversible disabilities".

Alemtuzumab was developed in Cambridge and has been licensed for the treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukaemia.

Original here

Children aged five to get sex education

By Graeme Paton, Education Editor

Jim Knight - Compulsory lifestyle lessons in all schools
Jim Knight, the Schools Minister, insisted five to seven-year-olds would not be 'taught sex', but teachers would address it if asked Photo: PAUL GROVER

Pupils will get basic classes in identifying body parts in the first few years of primary school.

In later years, they will be required to have more structured lessons about reproduction and relationships, a major review will recommend.

At secondary level, schools should improve the way issues such as civil partnerships and the importance of marriage are covered.

Teachers will also be given training in delivering lessons amid fears too many are embarrassed to discuss sex in the classroom.

The Government has already admitted that sex and relationship education across England is too "patchy".

However, the move will be opposed by family campaigners who accuse ministers of subjecting pupils to controversial issues before they are ready.

To allay concerns, ministers are expected to announce a consultation ahead of the implentation of the lessons on whether or not to give parents an opportunity to withdraw their children.

In a further move, ministers will also announce a radical shake-up of the way children are taught about the dangers of drugs and alcohol.

Jim Knight, the Schools Minister, who has led the review, insisted exposure to sex education before puberty reduced teenage pregnancy rates.

"It is important that we as a society allow better sex and relationship education in both primary and secondary schools without sexualising young people too early," he said. "It is right to share the responsibility between home and school."

At present, all primary and secondary pupils have to learn about the biology of reproduction in science.

In primary schools, pupils should learn about how animals and humans reproduce, but can limit lessons to the biology curriculum.

Schools can also cover the subject in personal, social and health education, although it is not a compulsory part of the National Curriculum.

In secondary schools, teachers must go further, covering issues such as relationships and sexually transmitted diseases. Lessons on civil partnerships and marriage are also offered at secondary level as part of PSHE but they are non-statutory.

Mr Knight said he had received "many strong representations" for making PSHE statutory at all ages to address the problem of poor lessons.

Speaking in the Commons, he said: "The international evidence suggests that teaching aspects of sex and relationship education before puberty has a positive effect on such things as teenage pregnancy rates. Clearly, that has to be done with a high degree of sensitivity and... the involvement of parents, with children reaching puberty at different ages. We must ensure not only that, as a society, we are comfortable with the level of detail and of education that people receive during sex education, but that we are strong on relationship education."

Leading charities including the Sex Education Forum and Brook, the sexual health advice service, which have taken part in the Government review, have already called for lessons to be compulsory in all schools.

It follows the publication of Government figures earlier this year showing that the number of abortions in girls under 16 last year rose 10 per cent to 4,376.

Norman Wells, director of the Family Education Trust, said making sex education mandatory would "seriously undermine parents".

New-style lessons on drugs and alcohol lessons will also be overhauled.

Primary school pupils will be given warnings on avoiding medicines and prescription drugs left in the home - as well recognising the difference between soft drinks and alcohol.

Stephen Burgess, national director of Life Education Centres, the health charity, said: "If we want to make a real and lasting difference to teenage drug and alcohol misuse, we must reach them early – at primary school. Then, as they reach adolescence and are most at risk from peer influence, they can make informed decisions based on fact rather than hearsay."

*Health officials were forced to apologise after sending letters to children as young as nine, demanding they are tested for sexually transmitted diseases.

Primary school children were also offered the chance to win an iPod if they attended a clinic for testing. A primary care trust in Harrow blamed an administrative error.

Geraldine Smith, the Labour MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale, told the Telegraph: "To start sex education at primary school is to rob young children of their innocence. I know children seem to grow up faster these days but to start formally teaching them about sex education would be quite wrong and would encourage under-age sex. Being exposed to this sort of thing at such an age would put an awful lot of pressure on very young children."

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The Unicat Amerigo International Is Good For Regular, Zombie Or Financiapocalypse

By Matt Hardigree

The folks over at UnicatAmericas are no stranger to the idea of living in a vehicle and have sent over a nomination for their International-based Unicat as a proper vehicle for surviving the financiapocalypse, which may require some to live in their vehicles, and the Zombie apocalypse, which presents its own problems. This particular survival vehicle has a 2,000-mile range and carries enough supplies to keep four people alive for more than three months. The other features that make the Unicat an excellent choice for our bleak future (or for people who like to hang out in rough environments) below.

When The Going Gets Tough

We Get Going In A Unicat

In addition to the capable off-road setup and an interior that looks as comfortable and modern as our own apartment, the Unicat features a 110-gallon freshwater tank and an RO watermaker that can decontaminate and desalinate from almost any source of water. A military-grade first aid kit is setup for most minor emergencies and a complete set of tools (including self-extraction equipment) will keep most people moving in safety. Roof-mounted solar panels help power the Unicat, which features a full suite of global communications equipment as well as an advanced entertainment system for keeping your crew entertained when not on zombie patrol.

A frequent point of discussion when identifying a great survival vehicle is the inclusion of a BOV (bail-out vehicle). The Unicat can be outfitted with two bikes, motorcycle, kayak and a 15' Zodiac with a 15 hp outboard motor.

There's also plenty of storage for extra hunting/fishing/SCUBA gear or whatever you think you'll need to stay alive in the radioactive deserts of the future. It may be more expensive than your house, but your house can't travel 2,000 miles without stopping for gas.

But far and away the best part of the Unicat Amerigo International is this note from the marketing brochure:

"This is the ultimate family Expedition Vehicle."

Original here

Archaeologists Uncover Ancient Governor's Palace In Turkey

Discovery of a rare treasure trove of more than 20 bronze vessels under the paving stones in the courtyard. (Credit: Ziyaret Tepe Archaeological Project)

Within the scope of an international rescue excavation project, a team of four archaeologists specialized in Middle Eastern affairs headed by Dr. Dirk Wicke (Institute of Egyptology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies) have unearthed parts of a Neo-Assyrian governor's palace dating back to the 9th to 7th century BCE in a two-month excavation program amongst the ruins on Ziyaret Tepe. The discoveries were extraordinary.

The site in the south-east of Turkey (Diyarbakir province) is at risk from the construction of the Ilisu Dam. For several years now it has been investigated by teams from the universities of Akron (Ohio), Cambridge, Munich and Istanbul (Marmara University) in a joint excavation project. Sponsorship by the research funds of the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz in 2007 and 2008 gave its archaeologists the opportunity to become involved in this international and multi-disciplinary project. There are plans to continue the project for another three years.

The Upper Tigris region came under the sway of the Assyrians in the middle of the second millennium BCE. They established their provincial capital in Tushan which is identified today as Ziyaret Tepe. According to historical inscriptions by the Assyrian ruler Assurnasirpal II it is certain that the construction of an administrative palace in Tushan dates back to the year 882 BCE. The excavation area of the Mainz team comprises the topmost parts of the acropolis, which must have been subsumed by the governor's palace. Parts of the private residential area and a courtyard have already been uncovered. The main rooms were well equipped - amongst the findings were colorful wall paintings and a facility for an oven on wheels.

But the most unusual discovery was the excavation of cremations in pits within the extensive courtyard area. Five installations have been found to date, two of which were undisturbed and contained opulent burial goods. In the rectangular graves of approximately 1.50 m x 2.00 m in size, for example, a considerable layer of ash and burned bones as well as numerous bronze vessels, sumptuous stone and ivory receptacles, carved ivory objects, seals, and beads were found. These items indicate the high status of the people buried here. They are believed to have been residents of the palace. These objects are very similar to those found in the Assyrian capitals of Assur and Kalhu/Nimrud in modern day Iraq.

In addition to the cremation remains found this year, a rare treasure trove of more than 20 bronze vessels was discovered under the paving stones in the courtyard. These include a jug, a wine ladle, a sieve, several bowls and cups, mostly made from embossed bronze, which are now waiting to be restored. This will reveal their elaborate ornamentation which can already be made out under the corrosion layer.

The archaeological research project at Ziyaret Tepe (Turkey) undertaken by the Institute of Ancient Near Eastern Studies of Mainz University, which was set up 10 years ago, adds a new field archaeological portfolio alongside the excavations in Haft Tappeh and Tchogha Zanbil (Iran). It enables its students to work in the region in which they specialize and makes them part of an international research project.

Original here

A small dose of sunshine could help men with fertility problems

By Daily Mail Reporter

man sunbathing

A study suggests that getting a boost of vitamin D, the 'sunshine vitamin', could improve men's fertility (posed by model)

Couples struggling to conceive should consider getting out more, research suggests.

A study found almost a third of men experiencing fertility problems have low levels of vitamin D, the 'sunshine vitamin'.

Just spending ten minutes outside in their shirt sleeves would be enough of a boost, according to Anne Clark, the medical director of an Australian fertility centre.

Previous studies have shown vitamin D, produced from natural light and found in oily fish and eggs, is important for a healthy pregnancy.

But the latest findings show a deficiency may also affect sperm.

'The results show lifestyle changes can be beneficial,' Dr Clark told the Fertility Society of Australia, in Brisbane.

The vitamin D deficiency could have been caused by worries about skin cancer and by men trying to avoid too much exposure to sunshine, Dr Clark said.

She suggested that office workers could absorb enough vitamin D by simply having their morning tea break outside in the sunshine with their sleeves rolled up.

Other basic lifestyle changes such as giving up smoking, losing weight, and reducing caffeine and alcohol intake, would also help.

In her group, 105 men agreed to the changes, and to take multivitamins and antioxidants for two to three months.

Afterwards, tests revealed 'an improvement in the shape of the sperm, which can enhance conception,' said Dr Clark.

In fact, 31 of the men went on to achieve a pregnancy.

'The results clearly show that lifestyle changes and dietary supplements can be beneficial for the conception of a healthy on-going pregnancy,' her report said.

Original here

U.S. Suicide on Rise: Middle-Aged at Risk

By Theresa Tamkins

TUESDAY, Oct. 21 ( — After a decade-long decrease, U.S. suicide rates have started to rise, largely due to an increase in suicides among middle-aged white men and women.

Whites age 40 to 64 have “recently emerged as a new high-risk group for suicide,” according to the study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Suicides increased between 1999 and 2005 by about 3% annually in white men and 4% in white women age 40 to 64, according to Susan Baker, MPH, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, and her colleagues. Suicide rates remained the same in Asians and Native Americans, and declined in blacks.

Overall, the suicide rate rose in the early 1980s, then dropped each year from 1986 to 1999. From 1999 to 2005, however, the rates have increased 0.7% annually.

In all, 32,637 people killed themselves in the United States in 2005, a rate of 11 per 100,000 people.

Guns are the most common method of suicide, but their use has declined over time. Suicide by hanging or suffocation has increased among both men and women.

The reason for the increase is unknown. But if economic conditions continue to decline, suicides could go up. “This is a concern, especially when one looks at the high rates during the Great Depression,” says Baker.

Seetal Dodd, PhD, a senior fellow at the University of Melbourne in Australia, has found that suicide rates tend to fluctuate with the economic trends—at least in men.

The study is cause for concern, Dodd says, because it identifies middle-aged white men as the new high-risk group for suicide—the same section of the population at risk for suicide during an economic downturn.

“There is a considerable risk that the current economic situation may result in a further spike in the suicide rate for men of working age, especially if we start to see an increase in unemployment and a decrease in housing affordability and consumer sentiment,” Dodd says.

Robert Bossarte, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Rochester in New York, says that people have traditionally focused on suicide prevention in the very young and the old—but not necessarily the middle-aged. Historically, people over 65 have had the highest suicide rates, but this study suggests that trend is changing.

“The most important take-home message is try to understand what’s unique about the [middle-aged] population and what message would be most effective at preventing this,” he says.

A number of factors could be affecting the middle-aged, including taking care of aging baby-boomer parents, or coping with substance abuse or unemployment.

Bossarte also notes that while rates are rising in women, men are at greater risk overall.

“There’s something unique about the life circumstances of white, middle-aged males that is contributing to this risk,” he says. “The key is getting people into treatment and getting people to use the resources that are available to them.”

Original here

Scientists suggest five ways to stay sane

By Alastair Jamieson

A simple "five-a-day" programme of social and personal tasks can promote mental wellbeing as well as physical fitness according to the research, compiled with the help of more than 400 scientists.

The Mental Capital and Wellbeing report, published by Foresight, part of the Government Office for Science, says people should try to connect with others, to be active, to take notice of their surroundings, to keep learning and to give to their neighbours and communities.

Foresight believes a small increase in levels of wellbeing can produce a large decrease in mental health problems, treatment of which costs up to £77billion a year in England alone.

The report's advice to "take notice" includes suggestions such as "catch sight of the beautiful" and "savour the moment, whether walking to work, eating lunch or talking to friends". Examples of learning include mending a bike or trying to play a musical instrument.

It suggests an easy five-a-day approach, citing the success of the nutritional campaign to persuade Britons to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables every day.

Although the report may not become government policy, ministers are likely to heed its findings as Foresight is headed by the Government's chief scientist, Professor John Beddington.

He said: "This report gives us new insights, based on cutting-edge science, into the challenges ahead and how they might be addressed. It contains a range of proposals for society and Government to consider.

"There is good work being done but progress can be made and taxpayers' money saved if government departments work together more effectively to tackle these issues."

The project investigated ways of improving the nation's "mental capital", which Professor Beddington likened to a bank account of the mind. "We need to ask what actions can add to that bank account, and what activities can erode that capital," he said.

Among the other issues it highlights is a strong link between mental illness and debt. Half of people in Britain who are in debt have a mental disorder, compared with just 16 per cent of the general population.

The report advocates more flexible working, days after Lord Mandelson, the Business Secretary, announced a review of government plans to extend such arrangements.

Cary Cooper, Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health at the University of Lancaster, a coordinator of the report, said: "People who choose to work flexibly are more job-satisfied, healthier and more productive."

Foresight says work-related absenteeism accounts for between 10million to 14m days lost, costing business around £750m per annum.

Presenteeism – where the individual is at work but not productive – could cost the UK around £900m per year.

Five steps to happiness


Developing relationships with family, friends, colleagues and neighbours will enrich your life and bring you support

Be active

Sports, hobbies such as gardening or dancing, or just a daily stroll will make you feel good and maintain mobility and fitness

Be curious

Noting the beauty of everyday moments as well as the unusual and reflecting on them helps you to appreciate what matters to you


Fixing a bike, learning an instrument, cooking – the challenge and satisfaction brings fun and confidence


Helping friends and strangers links your happiness to a wider community and is very rewarding

Original here

Speed of eating 'key to obesity'

Slow down!

Wolfing down meals may be enough to nearly double a person's risk of being overweight, Japanese research suggests.

Osaka University scientists looked at the eating habits of 3,000 people and reported their findings in the British Medical Journal.

Problems in signalling systems which tell the body when to stop eating may be partly responsible, said a UK nutrition expert.

He said deliberately slowing down at mealtimes might impact on weight.

The old wives' tale about chewing everything 20 times might be true - if you did take a bit more time eating, it could have an impact
Professor Ian McDonald
Nottingham University

The latest study looked at the relationship between eating speed, feelings of "fullness" and being overweight.

Just under half of the 3,000 volunteers told researchers they tended to eat quickly.

Compared with those who did not eat quickly, fast-eating men were 84% more likely to be overweight, and women were just over twice as likely.

Those, who, in addition to wolfing down their meals, tended to eat until they felt full, were more than three times more likely to be overweight.

Stomach signals

Professor Ian McDonald, from the University of Nottingham, said that there were a number of reasons why eating fast could be bad for your weight.

He said it could interfere with a signalling system which tells your brain to stop eating because your stomach is swelling up.

He said: "If you eat quickly you basically fill your stomach before your gastric feedback has a chance to start developing - you can overfill the thing."

He said that rushing meals was a behaviour that might have been learned in infancy, and could be reversed, although this might not be easy.

"The old wives' tale about chewing everything 20 times might be true - if you did take a bit more time eating, it could have an impact."

'Biological imperative

In an accompanying editorial, Australian researchers Dr Elizabeth Denney-Wilson and Dr Karen Campbell, said that a mechanism that helps make us fat today may, until relatively recently, have been an evolutionary advantage, helping us grab more food when resources were scarce.

They said that, if possible, children should be encouraged to eat slowly, and allowed to stop when they felt full up at mealtimes.

Dr Jason Halford, Director of the Kissileff Human Ingestive Behaviour Laboratory at the University of Liverpool, said that the way we eat was slowly being seen as a key area in obesity research, especially since the publication of studies highlighting a genetic variant linked to "feelings of fullness".

His own work, recently published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, found that anti-obesity drug sibutramine worked by slowing down the rate at which obese patients ate.

He said: "What the Japanese research shows is that individual differences in eating behaviour underlie over-consumption of food and are linked to obesity.

"Other research has found evidence of this in childhood, suggesting that it could be inherited or learned at a very early age."

He said that there was no evidence yet that trying to slow down mealtimes for children would have an impact on future obesity rates.

Original here

Go-ahead for pig cell trial on humans



BLOOD BROTHERS: Approval for transplanting pig tissue into humans was boosted after researchers discovered pig cells injected into Michael Helyer in 1996 were still producing insulin.

Diabetes sufferers are hoping for a cure with a long-awaited Government decision giving the go-ahead to a clinical trial transplanting pig tissue into humans.

Diabetes sufferers are ecstatic, but the decision has outraged opponents of genetic engineering and disturbed some clinicians, who warn the trial could unleash pig viruses into the human population.

Auckland biotech company Living Cell Technologies finally received provisional approval from Health Minister David Cunliffe yesterday, 18 months after getting the all-clear from Medsafe.

The independent trial at Middlemore Hospital could begin early next year.

Eight type-1 diabetics will receive injections of capsules containing insulin-producing cells from Auckland Island pigs, which are disease-free after living in isolation for 200 years.

An Auckland study in 1996 was aborted because of fears pig viruses could infect humans.

Patients in a Russian trial that started last June have been able to cut their insulin dependence between 25 and 100 per cent.

The bid for New Zealand approval was boosted last year after researchers discovered pig cells injected into Matamata man Michael Helyer in 1996 were still producing insulin.

LCT chief executive Paul Tan said he had been waiting 12 years for the trial to restart.

"Political and commercial interests" and "junk science" had almost scuttled the venture, he said.

"It got Medsafe approval in April 2007, it had ethics approval, so there were no ethical or safety concerns. The only conclusion you can draw is the holdup was political."

Green MP Sue Kedgley said if there was "even a tiny potential" for pig viruses to cross over into humans, the trial should be stopped.

"It would be like opening Pandora's box and, once those viruses were unleashed, it would be impossible to undo it."

Some clinicians have also expressed reservations.

Professor Patrick Manning, president of the Society for the Study of Diabetes, said Mr Cunliffe should release the evidence proving the trial met international guidelines.

The technique should be proven to work in animals before human trials could start, he said.

"There's no doubt it will be a major breakthrough if successful, but we have to be very careful about the benefits and risks, which are as yet unknowable."

Mr Cunliffe said he had carefully considered the issues and put public safety first.

"I make no apologies for the time it has taken to get the level of assurance that I believe the New Zealand public would expect."

After the matter was first discussed by the Cabinet in March, he sought a report from the National Health Committee and Medsafe provided advice regarding international regulatory developments.

"I had to balance the high probability of doing significant good for a number of people if it was successful against the low possibility of doing great harm to the general population if it resulted in the spread of porcine retrovirus."

LCT is building a $2.5 million piggery at Awarua, near Invercargill, to breed the pigs in strictly controlled conditions.

Diabetes New Zealand estimates 15,000 Kiwis have type-1 diabetes, including 3500 children and teenagers.

Original here

15 Reasons Never to Let Anyone You Love Near a McDonald's

The Golden Arches: the ultimate American icon. Super Size Me taught us that fast food culture brings obesity, heart disease, hypertension and a whole slew of other problems. How bad do you really want that Big Mac? Here are 15 reasons you'll never let anyone you love get near those Golden Arches.

Real food is perishable. With time, it begins to decay. It’s a natural process, it just happens. Beef will rot, bread will mold. But what about a McDonald’s burger? Karen Hanrahan saved a McDonald’s burger from 1996 and, oddly enough, it looks just as “appetizing” and “fresh” as a burger you might buy today. Is this real food?

You would have to walk 7 hours straight to burn off a Super Sized Coke, fries and Big Mac. Even indulging in fast food as an occasional treat is a recipe for weight gain...unless you're planning to hit each treadmill in the treadmill bay afterwards.

Containing less fat, salt and sugar, your pet’s food may be healthier than what they serve at McDonald’s.

In 2007, the employees of an Orlando-area McDonald's were caught on camera pouring milk into the milkshake machine out of a bucket labeled "Soiled Towels Only." That particular restaurant had already been cited for 12 different sanitary violations. Though McDonald's proudly stands by its safety standards, and not every restaurant has such notorious incidents, the setting of a fast food restaurant staffed with low-paid employees at a high turnover rate arguably encourages bending the rules. (McDonald's isn't alone in this, of course - Burger King is actually ranked as the dirtiest of all the fast food chains.)

McDonald’s supports the destruction of the Amazon rainforest. Much of the soy-based animal feed used to fatten fast-food chickens is grown in the Amazon. Are those chicken nuggets really worth acres of irreplaceable trees? (Especially considering how important carbon sinks like the rainforest are to halt global warming!) Fast food supports a completely unsustainable system of agriculture. It's cruel to animals, unhealthy for humans, and bad for the planet.

Even Prince Charles, while touring a diabetes center in the United Arab Emirates, commented that banning McDonald’s is key to health and nutrition. Don't let the salads and chicken breasts fool you. The "chicken" at McDonald's, by the way, comes with a whole lot more than chicken.

As if feeding children high-fat, high-sodium, low-nutrition “food” weren't bad enough, some Happy Meals in 2006 contained toy Hummers. It’s as if McDonald’s was encouraging a whole generation of kids not only to guzzle food, but to guzzle gas as well. Would you like a few barrels of petroleum with that?

The processed fat in McDonald’s food (and other fast food) promotes endothelial dysfunction for up to 5 hours after eating the meal. Endothelial tissue is what lines the inside of blood vessels.

For those who enjoy sex, take note: erectile dysfunction is connected to endothelial dysfunction. Morgan Spurlock of Super Size Me commented that his normally healthy sexual function deteriorated in just one month when he ate only food from McDonald’s. Even his girlfriend commented on camera that “he’s having a hard time, you know, getting it up.”

How many cows does it take to keep the world loaded with Big Macs? I had to do a some research and a little math, but according to a brief video inside one of McDonald’s 6 meat processing plants, about 500,000 pounds of beef is processed per day, per plant. If an average beef cow weighs 1,150 pounds, that means 2609 cows a day are turned into burgers. That’s 952,285 cows per year. And that’s just in the United States. Eating a hamburger may not be worse than driving a Hummer, but it's bad. One hamburger patty does not necessarily come from one cow. Think about that. You're eating bits of hundreds of cows.

Maybe you just pop in for an inexpensive latte. Watch out for the caramel syrup (Sugar, water, fructose, natural (plant source) and artificial flavor, salt, caramel color (with sulfites), potassium sorbate (preservative), citric acid, malic acid) or the chocolate drizzle (Corn syrup, water, hydrogenated coconut oil, high fructose corn syrup, glycerin, nonfat milk, cocoa, cocoa (processed with alkali), food starch-modified, disodium phosphate, potassium sorbate (preservative), xanthan gum, artificial flavor (vanillin), salt, soy lecithin). Please don't put that stuff into your body. Eat healthy cheap food instead - you can be well and still save cash.

Are you a vegetarian with a French fry craving? You better skip McDonald’s because their fries actually contain milk (and wheat) and though they’re fried in vegetable oil, the oil is flavored with beef extract. (McDonald's famously misled customers for years.)

Do you want high blood pressure? Hit the drive-through. Eating a McDonald’s chicken sandwich (any of ‘em, take your pick) will give you about 2/3 of the recommended daily amount of sodium. And if you actually do have high blood pressure, that’s way more than you really need.

Finally unveiled: the secret of the Big Mac’s “secret sauce.”

Soybean oil, pickle relish [diced pickles, high fructose corn syrup, sugar, vinegar, corn syrup, salt, calcium chloride, xanthan gum, potassium sorbate (preservative), spice extractives, polysorbate 80], distilled vinegar, water, egg yolks, high fructose corn syrup, onion powder, mustard seed, salt, spices, propylene glycol alginate, sodium benzoate (preservative), mustard bran, sugar, garlic powder, vegetable protein (hydrolyzed corn, soy and wheat), caramel color, extractives of paprika, soy lecithin, turmeric (color), calcium disodium EDTA (protect flavor).

Yum. Cheap oil and cheap syrup. Many people depend upon cheap food such as the sort offered at McDonald's, whether due to the economic conditions we currently face or low incomes. So shouldn't we be examining regulations that subsidize corn syrup but consider fruits and vegetables - the building blocks of a healthy body and green planet - to be "speciality" crops? Shouldn't we be promoting urban gardening, community gardens and spreading information about low-cost farmers' markets and CSAs? And focusing on the abundant choices of cheap food that are tasty and green?

Still not convinced? Maybe this 1970s trip through McDonaldland will give you enough nightmares to keep your loved ones away forever.

Sign up for the RSS feed so you can stay in the know about fast food restaurants - McDonald's isn't the only one to avoid.

by Sarah Irani

Original here