Home' Greymouth Star : August 23rd 2014 Contents Greymouth Star
8 - Saturday, August 23, 2014
ssociate Professor Tony
Merriman is keen to
shatter some popular
myths about gout and
New Zealand’s obesity
Gout was once known as ‘the disease
Another popular image of gout, from
19th century England, is that of a red-
faced squire, with an overfondness for
Prof Merriman points out that
although those images linger, they
have been left far behind by today ’s
The mass production of food and
sugary drinks means many more
people — not just a social elite — can
now eat and drink like a king.
He points out that gout — a
damaging form of arthritis — is “very
prevalent ’’ in New Zealand. More
than 100,000 New Zealanders have
it, including 3% of Europeans, 6% of
Maori, and 8% of Pacific people.
“If it is not treated then it can be very
Lack of treatment was quite
common, through a combination of
reasons, including the social stigma of
Untreated gout could lead to time off
work, pain and permanent disability
because of large build-ups of uric acid.
Consumption of alcohol, fructose-
sweetened drinks, meat and seafood
have been suggested as dietary
contributors to gout.
Prof Merriman and Dr Lisa Te
Morenga, also of Otago University, are
part of a recently formed group called
‘Fizz’, which is waging war on sugary
drinks and junk food.
Prof Merriman was also the lead
author of a study last year which
showed that consuming sugary
drinks reversed the benefits of a
gene variant, SLCA9, which usually
helped transport uric acid out of
the bloodstream and facilitated its
excretion through the kidney.
“A fundamental cause of gout is
increased uric acid levels, and we know
a relatively decent amount about the
genes and environmental factors that
cause increased uric acid levels,’’ Prof
“However, we know ver y little about
why only some people with increased
uric acid levels get gout.’’
These are the issues Prof Merriman is
helping to address in an international
genetic research project which has just
been supported by a $5m programme
grant from the Health Research
He was very relieved to gain
the funding, “a recognition of the
importance of gout in New Zealand”,
that meant the momentum built up in
recent years in gout research could be
maintained and ‘’very talented people
in my research group retained ’’.
He is also very excited about an
imminent genome-wide scan for gout
genes, also involving other researchers
And one of his broader, long-term
goals is to research the genetic causes
of increased weight in New Zealand.
He hopes this research information
may go some way to dispelling general
myths around obesity — and may
dispel the belief that somehow obesity
was the fault of the individual.
He also hopes that future research
findings, further highlighting the
importance of genetic elements in
weight gain, will help turn around
“ ingrained prejudices that lead to
In turn, this stigma was a barrier to
bringing in the sort of environment
changes needed to address obesity, and
the associated serious conditions such
as kidney and heart disease, gout and
He urges more awareness of the
strong genetic contributing factors to
obesity and more action to improve
the obesity-producing environment.
The latter includes the wide
availability of sugary drinks at much
lower prices than more healthy
products like milk.
Prof Merriman says he initially
became interested, in the early 1990s,
in the genetic and environmental
causes of common diseases because of
a strong family connection.
His wife, Marilyn, has type 1
diabetes, a largely congenital condition.
“That ’s really what got me started in
the whole field,’’ he said.
And that was the subject he
subsequently studied in his
postdoctoral work at Oxford
University, after his Otago studies.
“ When I returned to New Zealand
in 1998, I turned to rheumatoid
arthritis, an autoimmune disease with
similarities to type 1 diabetes, and then
to gout, largely because of the need for
research into gout, both nationally and
Prof Merriman was born in Gore and
grew up in Pukerau, near Gore, also at
Herbert, south of Oamaru, but mostly
in D unedin, where he attended King’s
If sparked by personal factors, his
research is also driven on by a strong
sense of curiosity, that he has also
noticed among fellow scientists.
— Otago Daily Times
‘Kings’ disease’ all too common
PICTURE: Otago Daily Times
Gout genetics researcher, Professor Tony Merriman, University of Otago biochemistry department, pours a
red fizzy drink.
University of Otago biochemist Associate Professor Tony Merriman is among the leaders of an international research project involving gout genetics. He was also the
co-author of a major study, recently published in The Lancet, which highlighted the disturbingly rapid growth of obesity in this country. And he recently gained $5 million
from the Health Research Council to continue his gout-related research for another five years.
American driver Alexander
Rossi detected a silver lining in
his disappointment overnight
after a Formula One race debut
was snatched away at the last
The 22-year-old Californian
had been announced yesterday as
a replacement for Max Chilton
at Marussia due to contractual
issues with the Briton.
The Russian-licensed team
then performed a u-turn and
announced while Rossi was
on track for first practice that
Chilton would race after all.
Rossi said he found out the
bad news only after he stepped
out of the car.
“ I don’t think it was as hard
as you would expect because
it came so quickly and it went
away in the same way,” he said.
“ I don’t think it had fully
sunk in quite yet that I was
racing as it was a morning
session — it was nothing new
to me obviously. But I was quite
disappointed, I wanted to race
this weekend, but that is the way
it goes sometimes. ”
The reser ve driver, who
performed the same role at
rivals Caterham until it changed
ownership last month, has taken
part in Friday practice before but
has yet to take the final step and
become the first American in
seven years to race in F1.
He said, however, that he felt
closer than ever to his goal.
“ I think it is something that
is coming. When it will come I
don’t know. It might come out
of the woodwork like it possibly
did this weekend, it might be
more a planned thing,” he said.
“ But I do feel very confident
I will be in the grand prix race
seat for a whole weekend very
Rossi felt sure American
audiences, revved up by race
coverage on the NBC network,
would understand the situation
and become if anything more
supportive. — Reuters
Rossi sees silver lining
Marussia Ferrari Formula One driver Alexander Rossi of the
United States drives during the first practice session at the Belgian
Grand Prix in Spa-Francorchamps.
Mercedes dominated practice for the
Belgian Grand Prix overnight with
Lewis Hamilton ending the day top of
the time sheets and six 10ths of a second
faster than championship-leading team-
mate Nico Rosberg.
After Rosberg had set the pace in the
morning with a lap just 0.097 seconds
faster than the Briton’s best, Hamilton
turned the tables after lunch with a
substantially quicker effort.
The time of one minute 49.189 on soft
tyres was 0.604 better than Rosberg’s on
a cloudy but bright day at the longest
track on the calendar, where the weather
can combine the seasons in the space of
Rosberg had topped the first session
timesheets in 1:51.577 as the two title
rivals — separated by just 11 points after
11 of 19 races — renewed their duel
after the August break and completed
more than two race distances.
The afternoon running was interrupted
when Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado
crashed his Lotus into the barriers on
the way to Pouhon.
Maldonado made a quick trip to the
medical centre but was given the all-clear.
There was a further stoppage in the
first half hour when Mexican Esteban
Gutierrez’s Sauber spun and was
stranded on the track at Blanchimont.
“It’s great to be back in the car and
it was feeling good out there today,”
Hamilton, who had buckets of ice
tipped over him after he stepped out of
the car as part of a social media charity
“The forecast is wet for tomorrow, so it
was important to maximise track time as
this may be our last dry running before
the race,” he added.
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso was third
fastest in both sessions with McLaren’s
Jenson Button fourth in the morning
and fifth in the afternoon.
The Mercedes-powered teams were
predicted to dominate and had seven
cars in the top 10 in the opening session.
But Ferrari’s showing, with four times
Spa winner Kimi Raikkonen fifth fastest
in the morning despite a spin at La
Source, indicated they would not have it
all their own way.
“At this track and at Monza, engine
performance counts for a lot. We know
there is no magic solution but we will
nevertheless try to optimise everything,”
Williams had a low-key start, with
Finland’s Valtteri Bottas 10th on the
time sheets and Brazilian Felipe Massa
15th, but picked up with Massa fourth
in the afternoon.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, winner of
the previous race in Hungary, was ninth
and eighth in the two sessions while
his quadruple world champion team-
mate Sebastian Vettel sat out the second
session due to an electrical problem that
forced an engine change.
At the bottom end of the field,
Germany ’s Andre Lotterer limbered
up for his F1 debut with Caterham
as a replacement for Japan’s Kamui
Kobayashi by lapping faster than
Swedish rookie team-mate Marcus
Ericsson in the morning.
“Having Andre in the car is definitely
helping us, he has done an extraordinary
job on his first day driving for us,” team
principal Christijan Albers commented.
American Alexander Rossi replaced
Max Chilton for the session at Marussia
but his hopes of completing the weekend
and racing for the first time evaporated
when the Briton was reinstated following
contractual wrangles. — Reuters
Hamilton sets pace
PICTURE: Getty Images
Max Verstappen of Netherlands, right, who will drive for Scuderia Toro Rosso next season,
speaks with his father Jos Verstappen in the Scuderia Toro Rosso garage during practice
ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.
Concern over young racers’ homework
Red Bull technical head Adrian Newey
raised concern for motorsport ’s budding
young racers, accusing some parents of risking
a bleak future for their children by neglecting
With a youth debate raging in Formula One
after Red Bull-owned Toro Rosso announced
the signing of 16-year-old D utch driver
Max Verstappen for 2015, Newey was more
concerned about educational issues.
In a sport that holds that if you are good
enough, you are old enough, Formula One’s
leading designer said he was less worried
about age per se and more about what
happened to those who failed to make the
“A lot of the drivers in karting and in junior
formulas frankly just aren’t going to school,”
the Briton told reporters at the Belgian
“They don’t go to school at all. The parents
then hide behind that by saying that they
have private tutors but I think in many cases
— n ot all, I’m sure, but in many cases —
that ’s actually a complete sham.”
Newey, the design genius who was asked
to leave private school at 16 for misbehaving
but went on to study aeronautics at university,
said the exam results of many racing teenagers
would probably tell a “fairly depressing story”.
A few might have potentially glittering
futures, such as Red Bull’s own four-times
world champion Sebastian Vettel who made
his F1 debut at 19, but the majority who did
not progress faced problems ahead.
“ I think for many of those children that
don’t quite make the grade, they have spent
all that time not going to school, not having
a proper tuition and then what happens
to them after wards is altogether another
question,” Newey said.
“ It ’s something which motor racing as an
industry urgently needs to look at, because
personally I think we’re being irresponsible
Verstappen, who turns 17 next month, still
has a year to finish at school but is clearly one
of those outstanding talents.
The son of former F1 racer Jos told reporters
overnight that his grades were good so far
and he hoped to complete his studies while
competing next season.
Some of the current crop of Formula One
drivers started racing go-karts as young as
five years old and progressed to single-seaters
while still of school age and before they can
legally drive on public roads.
If few of them excelled academically, there
have been notable exceptions in a sport
whose engineering and design teams are
filled with graduates from the world’s leading
Mercedes’ current Formula One
championship leader Nico Rosberg, son
of 1982 champion Keke, turned down
a university place to study aeronautical
engineering at London’s Imperial College to
race in GP2 instead.
McLaren test driver and Le Mans racer
Oliver Tur vey is a Cambridge University
engineering graduate. — Reuters
Brown signs on for Central Pulse
Silver Fern Jodi Brown has confirmed her
shift north to Wellington, signing with the
Central Pulse for next year’s trans-Tasman
The 33-year-old goal attack, who has 42 caps
to her name over an eight-year international
career, was part of the Silver Ferns team which
won silver at the Glasgow Commonwealth
She had spent the past three years with the
Southern Steel, who opted not to renew her
contract for next year’s ANZ Championship.
Brown also turned out for Canterbury Tactix
in 2008-09, and Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic
She will renew her partnership with recently
retired Silver Ferns shooter Irene van Dyk, who
has already signed on for another stint at the
Pulse after shifting south from the Magic last
Versatile defensive midcourter Joline Henry
has also confirmed she will return for her fourth
season with the Robyn Broughton-coached
Pulse, joining team-mates Katrina Grant, Liana
Leota and new signing Ameliaranne Wells at
the New Zealand trials next month.
The Pulse, which finished a disappointing
sixth this year, has also snapped up 23-year-
old midcourter Hannah Poff, who left the
Tactix in 2011 to concentrate on playing
rugby. — NZN
Presentation Dinner, Shantytown,
Saturday October 11, 2014
Nominations are required for:
1. Sportsperson of the year
2. Administrator of the year
3. Referee, Unpire or Coach of the year
4. Best team performance of the year
5. Achievement in sport - Male & Female (Two New Awards)
‘Awarded to a sportsperson who is a West Coast resident aged
18 years and over and is dedicated and outstanding in their
chosen sport. The person must have an achievement within their
sport (on or off the field) that is deserving of recognition. The
achievement does not necessarily have to
have been at a national level’
Advert Proudly Sponsored by the Greymouth Star
Covering the period from
August 1, 2013 to July 31, 2014
Nomination must be accompanied by relevant
supporting evidence of achievement.Nomination
forms can be picked up from Grey and Westland District
Councils, Coll’s Sports World & Stirling Sports.
Nominations close, Friday September 5, 2014
Guest Speaker: John Morrison
2014 marks 150 years since the
founding of Greymouth. In July 1864
Reuben Waite opened the first store
in what was to become the town of
The Greymouth Star will celebrate
this special anniversary with a full
colour souvenir publication inserted
into every copy of the West Coast
Messenger and distributed to every
home on the West Coast. The
publication will contain historical
editorial on the town's history as well
as feature the events planned for
the weekend of September 26th to
celebrate the occasion.
This is a golden opportunity for
Greymouth businesses young and
old to advertise and promote their
part in our town and support this
Publication Date: Wednesday
Booking and Copy Deadline:
Friday September 5th
Patrick McBride 03 769 7921
If you would like to be part of this historical
publication please contact
to secure your space.
Deadline Friday September 5th.
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