Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Expert Opinion

Experts pick apart the veracity of claims made in research papers and the media.

Should Doctors Recommend Homeopathy?

By AusSMC

A debate in the British Medical Journal has argued about whether the report into the evidence for homeopathy by Australia’s NHMRC omitted key pieces of evidence.

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2015 Federal Budget: Announcements and Expert Responses

By Australian Science Media Centre

Experts comment on how the 2015 federal Budget will impact research, health and science.

Federal budget: summary of major announcements

Australian Consensus Centre
$4.0 million over four years from 2014-15 to help establish the Australian Consensus

NCRIS
The Government will provide $150.0 million in 2016-17. $150 million had already been allocated for 2015-16

University research block grants
The Sustainable Research Excellence component of the university block grant will be cut by $260 million over the forward estimates, and by $150.0 million in 2016-17 alone

Antarctic science

Can You Outrun an Unhealthy Diet?

By Australian Science Media Centre

An editorial in the British Journal of Sports Medicine has blamed excess sugar and carbohydrates, and not a lack of exercise, behind the surge in obesity.

Source: tinyurl.com/o7tf3dj

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WHO Releases Sugar Guidelines

The World Health Organization has recommended that adults and children reduce their daily intake of sugars, excluding sugar in fruits, vegetables and milk, to less than 10% of their total energy intake. Halving this to six teaspoons per day would provide additional health benefits.

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Organic Pollutants Linked to Early Menopause

By Australian Science Media Centre

A new study has found that women who are exposed to high levels of endocrine-disrupting chemicals begin menopause 2–4 years earlier.

“A number of chemicals that are persistent pollutants in the environment, such as polychlorinated biphenyl’s (PCB’s) and phthalates, can weakly mimic oestrogen or testosterone. As they are easily absorbed and can accumulate in the body, these chemicals may accumulate to levels that have adverse effects on human health.

The Call for Nuclear Energy to Stop Biodiversity Loss

By Australian Science Media Centre

Adelaide ecologists Prof Barry Brook and Prof Corey Bradshaw have called for the promotion of nuclear power to mitigate climate change and protect biodiversity in an open letter published in Conservation Biology.

“It is obviously correct to say that we need to move rapidly away from our present heavy dependence on fossil fuels. By far the most cost-effective change is to improve the efficiency of turning energy into the services it provides: lighting, heating, cooling, motive power and electronic devices. Wind and solar are the best alternatives for supplying the energy we need.

Antidepressants during Pregnancy Linked to ADHD in Kids

By AusSMC

Exposure to antidepressants in the womb may be linked to attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder in the child, but the risks of depressed mothers stopping their medication may be greater.

“Current psychiatric advice is generally that the risk of ‘depression’ during pregnancy outweighs the risk of foetal exposure to antidepressant medication. These data challenge this assertion and suggest that great caution needs to be exercised in prescribing antidepressants to women who are pregnant or planning to be pregnant because of risks to foetal neurodevelopment.

Prostate Cancer Screening: Do Benefits Outweight Risks?

By AusSMC

Screening for prostate cancer could reduce deaths from the disease by about one-fifth, according to long-term results of a European study involving over 162,000 men. Despite this new evidence for the efficacy of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing, the authors question whether the benefits of screening outweigh the harms, and recommend against routine PSA screening programs.

Source: Schröder et al., The Lancet, published online at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(14)60525-0

“The results are not surprising given previous reports and updates from the individual participating centres that the study data was collected from over the past 13 years. The key findings indicate that screening can reduce death from prostate cancer, but the risk of over-detection and over-treatment is considered too high to roll out a national screening program.

Organic Food High in Antioxidants and Low in Toxic Metals

A meta-analysis of 343 studies has found that organic crops and crop-based foods are up to 60% higher in a number of key antioxidants and 50% lower in toxic heavy metals than conventional crops. But are these results biologically meaningful?

GM Farmer Wins Landmark Court Case in Western Australia

By AusSMC

The Western Australian Supreme Court has dismissed an organic farmer’s claims for damages from his neighbour’s genetically-modified canola crop, which caused him to lose organic certification for more than half of his property for almost 3 years.

“The decision will give farmers surety that they can choose the crops they grow. The outcome is not about the safety of GM crops; it is more about the National Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Australia’s organic certification, which has a zero tolerance threshold for contamination in broadacre crops.

“We hope that the NASAA policy might be reviewed and brought in line with similar policies around the globe to support farmers wishing to grow crops for their niche markets. GM crops can be consistent with organic farming.