Advising men on prostate cancer screening – is the cart before the horse in terms of evidence?

Thursday, March 27th, 2014 | Kate Sloane | 2 Comments

Associate Professor Diana Sarfati and Dr Caroline Shaw

Associate Professor Diana Sarfati and Dr Caroline Shaw are public health experts in screening, especially cancer screening. They are both from the Department of Public Health at the University of Otago, Wellington. 

Prostate screening posterAnother review of the evidence for prostate cancer screening with prostate specific antigen (PSA) was published in the last week in the journal JAMA.[1] This blog considers the key recent evidence relating to prostate cancer screening.  There remain many problematic issues with this type of screening – including the cloudy nature of the overall evidence on benefits vs harms.  It is not reasonable to ask individual men and clinicians to make decisions regarding PSA-based screening. The Ministry should withdraw the recent pamphlets from circulation, and advice GPs and the public that there is insufficient evidence to recommend screening.

Continue reading

Study of NZ fruit & vegetable prices suggests markets best value-for-money

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014 | Kate Sloane | 3 Comments

Dr Amber Pearson & Associate Professor Nick Wilson

Fruit and vege market 1Food prices matter for determining access to healthy food – and so we studied fruit and vegetable prices in two NZ cities in this newly published article in PLOS ONE. In this blog post we elaborate on some of the details, including the finding that prices were generally lower at markets compared to supermarkets (with a family of four potentially saving up to $49 per week by buying at markets compared to from a supermarket). We also consider what else that central and local government could do to facilitate use of such markets.

Continue reading

A new review on dietary fats: Putting its findings in context

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014 | Kate Sloane | 18 Comments

Lisa Te Morenga, Jim Mann, Murray Skeaff, Rod Jackson, Tony Blakely, Nick Wilson, Rachael McLean

Bowl of almondsThis blog considers a newly published review on the evidence around dietary fat intakes and coronary heart disease. We have concerns about some aspects of this review, in particular the lack of context around the totality of the evidence. Hence we suggest that the best evidence for national guidelines is still that which encourages the replacement of saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats – with the latter ideally being long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (as found in fish, flax seed and nuts).

Continue reading

Should NZ spend relatively more health resources on improving men’s health?

Thursday, March 13th, 2014 | Nick Wilson | 2 Comments

Associate Professor Nick Wilson

There is no doubt that NZ needs to keep addressing ethnic inequalities in health as an important priority. Nevertheless, gender inequalities may also be worth some consideration given that NZ men have lower life expectancy than women by four years. This blog summarises key data and considers the major risk factors determining poorer male health. It then discusses if there is a plausible case for shifting more of the available health resources towards improving male health.

Good and poor health graphFigure: Years of life lived in good and poor health (based on data in: Ministry of Health 2013)

Continue reading

6 teaspoons of sugar a day helps the diseases stay down, in a most challenging way

Friday, March 7th, 2014 | Nick Wilson | 11 Comments

Tony Blakely, Nick Wilson

Here comes the next big battle in nutrition: SUGAR. Yesterday, the World Health Organization put out their widely anticipated guidelines on sugar intake for consultation. In this blog, we review some of the underlying evidence on the health sugar pileharm of sugar, and then pull back to consider the diet in total. There are many other aspects to the “sugar wars” that we do not cover here, such as sugar industry lobbying of politicians that the UK press – in particular the Guardian – has been repeatedly profiling. Instead, we try to focus on the science of the science.

Continue reading