Health Front: Flu Drug Stockpiles, Facebook Defriends Self Esteem

By DR. JERRY DeCAPUA, TRT Contributing Writer

• The Guardian Newspaper this week reports that scientists are saying that the United Kingdom has wasted half a billion pounds by stockpiling two anti-flu drugs that have not been proved to stop the spread of infection or to prevent people becoming seriously ill, according to a team of scientists who have analyzed the full clinical data, obtained after a four year fight. The U.K. spent 424 million pounds buying tons of Tamiflu and 136 million pounds on Relenza in a case of a flu pandemic, or hysteria.

During the swine flu outbreak of 2009, the World Health Organization recommended that all countries, including the U.S., should stock up on the supplies. However, the Cochrane Collaboration, a group of independent scientists who investigate the effectiveness of medicines, says that the best Tamiflu can do is shorten a bout of flu by approximately half a day—from around seven to 6.3 days. They also found side-effects in people taking it to prevent flu, which were never fully disclosed, including kidney and psychiatric conditions. “There is no credible way these drugs could prevent a pandemic,” said Carl Heneghan, professor of evidence-based medicine at Oxford University and one of the team. The Cochrane scientists are demanding the WHO to review its advice to countries.
Dr. Fiona Godlee, editor of the British Medical Journal, admits that stockpiling Tamiflu and Relenza was politically understandable in the context of the time. She added: “When one thinks of what half a billion pounds could have been spent on…” instead of a flu panacea. The British Medical Journal has now thrown down the gauntlet to drug companies who have often ghostwritten articles in medical journals, while simultaneously having the conflicted interest of profit motive.

This British situation is applicable to the United States’ reaction to a flu pandemic, where retailers get into the action and promote “get your flu shots, or be sorry.”  Data on effective medication has not been accessible. Flu viruses often mutate a dozen times and develop an immunity to a once effective vaccine or medicine that is later available and marketed. But Wal-Mart and the inventors of Tamiflu, Roche HQ, may not want you to consider this during a wide spread flu hysteria.

The Cochrane team found that although Tamiflu shortened an episode of flu a half day for adults, the drug did not reduce hospital admissions, pneumonia, bronchitis, sinusitis or asthma, especially in children.

• A new study is finding that social networking sites, like Facebook, were tied to a likelihood of women having a negative self-image about their bodies. “The more time spent on Facebook, the more of a toll on a young women’s self-esteem,” notes a study surveying 881 female college students. This new study was followed by an earlier study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, where 232 college women were surveyed on body image dissatisfaction and disordered eating behaviors. That study found women engaged in binge-eating episodes within a month after using social networking sites, possibly due to self-esteem issues.

In the more recent study women were surveyed and asked, “When looking at someone else’s photos on Facebook, how much attention do you pay to their body and how they dress?” The women were also asked about eating habits and body image, as well as their current weight, and ideal weight. The average weight of women in the study was 149 pounds, while most of those surveyed wanted to weigh 20 pounds less than that. Most of them spent over an hour a day staring at Facebook, and taking a good look at the photos placed.

The study found that more time on Facebook was linked to a significantly greater likelihood that a woman would feel bad about her own body. It also meant that she would compare herself to others. That was especially true if she felt she needed to lose weight, researchers noted. Women who compare themselves to idealized photos placed in Facebook may come away feeling inferior. The researchers found that many people Photoshop their pictures before posting, or they use an app like SkinneePix, which claims to shave a few pounds off a selfie.

The study did not find a direct link between a full-blown eating disorder and Facebook use, but the study has identified a worrisome trend. “Feeling negative about yourself and increased body comparison is sort of the first step towards an eating disorder,” notes study author Petya Eckler, at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow Scotland.

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April 30th, 2014

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