Posts Tagged ‘Mortality rate’

Spice addiction prolongs your life

August 7, 2015

red chilliesEven growing up in a family which liked its food very spicy I was regarded as being extreme in my like of fiery dishes. The story is – and I have only some very vague reflections of this – that I sucked my thumb as a child for a very long time. After my parents gave up on their attempts to stop this depraved habit my grandmother took charge. She wrapped my thumb every morning in a gauze bandage steeped in powdered red chillies. This continued all through one winter she spent with us when I was about two. She was “accused” by mother of “child cruelty” but she was determined to bring the depraved child back into line. Apparently I did not cry or complain – unnatural child that I was. Only my right thumb was wrapped in the chillie-bandage but it did not get me to stop or even to shift to my left thumb. In any event this “torture” went on for about 3 months but did not cure me of sucking my thumb (and that continued, I am told, till I was almost four). Thumb-sucking came to its natural end in due course but by then red chillies had been established as my “natural comforter”. I no longer suck my thumb, even at times of great stress – but I do find a blisteringly fiery meal strangely comforting.

But perhaps my grandmother has helped prolong my life. A new study in the BMJ reports on an observational study which makes no claims about cause and effect but merely reports a correlation between the eating of spicy food and a decrease in mortality.

Jun Lv et al. Consumption of spicy foods and total and cause specific mortality: population based cohort study. BMJ, 2015 DOI:10.1136/bmj.h3942

Press ReleasePrevious research has suggested that beneficial effects of spices and their bioactive ingredient, capsaicin, include anti-obesity, antioxidant, anti-inflammation and anticancer properties. So an international team led by researchers at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences examined the association between consumption of spicy foods as part of a daily diet and the total risk and causes of death. They undertook a prospective study of 487,375 participants, aged 30-79 years, from the China Kadoorie Biobank. Participants were enrolled between 2004-2008 and followed up for morbidities and mortality. …… 

During a median follow-up of 7.2 years, there were 20,224 deaths. Compared with participants who ate spicy foods less than once a week, those who consumed spicy foods 1 or 2 days a week were at a 10% reduced risk of death (hazard ratios for death was 0.90). And those who ate spicy foods 3 to 5 and 6 or 7 days a week were at a 14% reduced risk of death (hazard ratios for death 0.86, and 0.86 respectively).*In other words, participants who ate spicy foods almost every day had a relative 14% lower risk of death compared to those who consumed spicy foods less than once a week.

The association was similar in both men and women, and was stronger in those who did not consume alcohol. Frequent consumption of spicy foods was also linked to a lower risk of death from cancer, and ischaemic heart and respiratory system diseases, and this was more evident in women than men.

Fresh and dried chilli peppers were the most commonly used spices in those who reported eating spicy foods weekly, and further analysis showed those who consumed fresh chilli tended to have a lower risk of death from cancer, ischaemic heart disease, and diabetes.

spice tinThere is no chocolate dessert which is not better for the addition of a sprinkle or two of red chillie powder. It is not just chillies of course. A little cumin in the cheese can do wonders. A touch of cinnamon in the Irish coffee is decadently good. A little asafoetida in the traditional Swedish pea-soup can bring it to life. Bangers and mash with hot mustard on the bangers and onions and red chillies in the mash is a student’s delight. Coriander added to the mint with any lamb dish is the way to go. A touch of saffron on any fish or crustacean dish can hardly go wrong. I even find that there is no over-rated, Michelin-starred, French dish which cannot be improved by the addition of a little of the right spice.

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The inexorable numbers – 10:10:10:100 is inevitable around 2100

December 4, 2013

10:10:10:100 by 2100

The “success” of a species is generally taken to be indicated by its population though it is of course possible to have quantity without much quality of life. In general however, an increasing population of any species does indicate the sufficiency of food, the ability of the species to withstand competition from other species and the ability to breed successfully in the prevailing conditions. And so it is for humans. Based on population, modern humans have never been as successful as they currently are. And in spite of all the doom-sayers and the alarmists, the fact remains that more humans are being fed and housed and are achieving some large part of their aspirations than ever before. They are living longer than ever before  and their life expectancy is still increasing – currently by about 2 -3 months every year.

However  just looking at the crude birth rate (number of births per 1000 of population) might lead one to a conclusion that there was a catastrophic decline in the human species.

Crude Birth Rate / 1000 of population

Crude Birth Rate / 1000 of population

Birth rates have declined from about 37/1000 in 1950 to less than 15/1000 now and are projected to be around 10/1000 by 2100. For any other species that would be a catastrophic decline. But of course that conclusion would be quite wrong when applied to humans. The mortality rate of humans has also declined drastically as medical and public health advances have been made. And human ingenuity has maintained food and material supplies such that life expectancy has increased in spite of a booming population.

Birth and mortality rates

Birth and mortality rates

The fact that population and life expectancy have increased simultaneously is a clear indicator that the quality of life has not deteriorated. There may be problems of equitable distribution but there is no shortage of food or other resources – and no prospect of any catastrophic shortages occurring. All other indicators tell the same story. Infant mortality, poverty and malnourishment are all at all-time lows and declining even if these can be lower still. The real GDP per capita is increasing. Leisure time (time not spent on the requirements for survival) is increasing and for more people than ever before. The age of space exploration and the potential for access to new sources of raw materials and even real estate has already begun.

There are many who rail against the consumer society and materialism but generally do so from a position of some comfort. There are others who moan the loss of spirituality and yearn for a return to a simpler life but they too are not quite ready to return to the trees. There is no shortage of doom-mongers and alarmists who merely keep pushing their doomsdays into the future where they cannot be disproved.

It is a question of attitude. There are those who would prefer to be governed by fear (the precautionary principle) and there are others who would move forward in spite of their fears.

But the reality is that the human species – with all its warts and threats and self-inflicted problems – is thriving.

Population and life expectancy WPP2012

Population and life expectancy WPP2012

It is not a forecast or an objective but merely the inexorable arithmetic of demographics which leads to the inevitability of 10:10:10:100 around the year 2100.

10 billion population, 10 births per 1000 of population, 10 deaths per 1000 of population and a life expectancy at birth of 100 years.

I prefer to see the glass half-full rather than the glass half-empty.

Population decline is looming

April 6, 2013

I have posted earlier regarding the population decline that is inevitable if the fertility rates around the world continue to decline as they are doing. The declining fertility combined with the increase in longevity and the problems of aging pose new challenges of maintaining the growth and maintenance of the infrastructure that we would have become used to. In a hundred years from now the challenge could be a real shortage of labour.

The challenge in 2100 will be to maintain the balance between those “producing” to those “supported” in a declining and aging population. Perhaps immigration or population migrations or  productivity increases by the use of robots and an increase in the age one joins the “supported” population will be parts of the solution. I have no doubt that solutions will be found, but the “overpopulation problem” would have left the stage. ….

The majority of children being born today in the developed world will live to be over 100 years old.

Now as Science 2.0 reports another model simulation shows that  The Looming Population Implosion is inevitable and just a mathematical consequence of falling fertility rates.

Total fertility by major regions, 1950-2100 (children per woman) (UN)

A model based on global population data spanning the years from 1900 to 2010 has caused a research team to predict the opposite of what Doomsday Prophets of the 1960s and beyond insisted would happen –  the number of people on Earth will stabilize around the middle of the century and perhaps even start to decline. 

The results coincide with the United Nation’s downward estimates, which claim that by 2100 Earth’s population will be 6.2 billion, if low fertility and birth rate continues on its current path, below the 7 billion we are at now. 

The numerical model developed by a team from the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM) and the CEU-San Pablo University seems to confirm the lower estimate, in addition to a standstill and even a slight drop in the number of people on Earth by the mid-21st century. The population prospects between 1950 and 2100 provided by the UN were used to conduct the analysis published in the journal Simulation. 

“This is a model that describes the evolution of a two-level system in which there is a probability of passing from one level to another,” as explained to SINC by Félix F. Muñoz, UAM researcher and co-author of the project. …… 

……. The team considered the Earth as a closed and finite system where the migration of people within the system has no impact and where the fundamental principle of the conservation of mass –biomass in this case– and energy is fulfilled.

“Within this general principle, the variables that limit the upper and lower zone of the system’s two levels are the birth and mortality rates,” Muñoz pointed out and recalled the change that occurred in the ratio between the two variables throughout the last century.

“We started with a general situation where both the birth rate and mortality rate were high, with slow growth favouring the former,” he added, “but the mortality rate fell sharply in the second half of the 20th century as a result of advances in healthcare and increased life expectancy and it seemed that the population would grow a lot.

However, the past three decades have also seen a steep drop-off in the number of children being born worldwide.”


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