Expectant mothers should prepare themselves for an early morning birth, as a new study has found that most babies are born spontaneously between 01:00 and 07:00, with 4am being the most likely time for new babies to be brought into the world. Overall, more than 70% of births took place outside regular working hours, according to the analysis of five million births conducted by researchers from University College London, City, University of London and the National Childbirth Trust (NCT). Planned C-sections tend to happen on weekday mornings, which is understandable, while births after induced labours are more likely to occur around midnight. With just 28% of births occurring between 09:00 and 17:00 on weekdays, the researchers said their findings could be used to determine the staffing of midwives and doctors. Dr Peter Martin, lead author of the paper, who conducted the research while at City, University of London, said the fact more births are likely to occur at night or in the early hours “may be part of our evolutionary heritage. Our ancestors lived in groups that were active and dispersed during the day and came together to rest at night. So a night-time labour and birth probably afforded the mother and new-born baby some protection”.
Do your kids spend a lot of time playing video games? If so, have you ever thought they might be addicted to them? A new World Health Organisation (WHO) classification recognises that video game addiction as a mental health disorder and it’s not just kids who are at risk. According to the WHO, the new classification of “gaming disorder” has three main characteristics: Impaired control when gaming Prioritising gaming over other interests Continuation or escalation of gaming despite negative consequences The diagnosable condition will be set out this month in the organisation's reference work of recognised and diagnosable diseases, the International Classification of Diseases (ICD). However, many psychiatrists, including the American Psychiatric Association, disagree, saying there is insufficient evidence to consider gaming addiction as a unique mental disorder. As a result, a veil of confusion has been cast over how to approach so-called video game addiction. The mental health disorder classification gives mental health professionals a basis for setting up bespoke treatment plans and identifying risks. But some mental health professionals are concerned that the classification is grounded more in moral concerns rather than science. Speaking about the WHO’s decision, Richard Graham, a specialist psychiatrist in technology addiction at Nightingale Hospital, London, said there was a very important difference between enthusiastic gaming and the new disorder. "What we're talking about - and what the World Health Organisation is talking about - is the people who can no longer stop, no longer control their use. "They're prioritising their gaming above pretty much everything else in their life”.
How often do you pack to go on holiday and include some prescribed medicines in your luggage? While it might not seem like a big deal, you could actually be breaking the law in the country you’re visiting and that’s why the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is advising British citizens to check the rules ahead of time. Even painkillers that are commonly prescribed in the UK are classed as “controlled drugs” in some countries, which means holidaymakers could unwittingly find themselves in hot water abroad. In Japan, for example, some common cold remedies are banned, while certain types of sleeping pills require a special licence in Singapore. The FCO warned that travellers could be slapped with a fine or even imprisoned if they break the rules. With nearly half of the UK population currently taking prescribed medication, millions of individuals could potentially fall foul of foreign laws. In China and Costa Rica, visitors are required to show an accompanying doctor’s letter with any medication they bring, while in Indonesia, codeine, sleeping pills and treatments for ADHD are illegal. The FCO recommends that travellers check destinations on its own website’s travel advice pages or the Department of Health’s TravelHealthPro website.
A lot of stigma faces mothers who choose not to breastfeed and instead raise their children using formula milk from a bottle. And while the phrase ‘breast is best’ is one that’s commonly quoted when talking about raising babies, the Royal College of Midwives in the UK has issued a new position statement making it explicitly clear that bottle feeding is a woman’s right. While breast is still considered best, some women struggle to produce breast milk and have a torrid time breastfeeding, which is why, the college says, an informed choice must be promoted. The reality, though, is that new mothers feel unfairly pressured however they feed their babies. Mothers who breastfeed often feel constrained when it comes to whether, where, how often and how long they breastfeed. Likewise, mothers who go down the bottle route feel judged or guilty. Experts recommend that babies are exclusively breastfeed until the age of six months, after which time solid foods should also be introduced. But compared to the rest of Europe, the UK has one of the lowest rates of breastfeeding. While nearly every new mother attempts to breastfeed at the start, less than half are still exclusively breastfeeding their baby after six weeks. This drops to just 1% after six months. Gill Walton, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Midwives, said: "The RCM believes that women should be at the centre of their own care and as with other areas of maternity care, midwives and maternity support workers should promote informed choice. "If, after being given appropriate information, advice and support on breastfeeding, a woman chooses not to do so, or to give formula as well as breastfeeding, her choice must be respected.
Paludisme, vaccination et trousse à pharmacie, pour éviter les risques de maladies pendant un voyage il est vital de bien se préparer. À l'approche des vacances d'été, il est important de rappeler que voyager n'est pas sans danger. D'après le dernier rapport de l'Institut de veille sanitaire (InVS), paru le 9 juin dernier, le risque de décès dans le cadre d'un voyage est estimé dans le monde à 1/100.000 par mois. Si ce taux de mortalité peut être considéré comme faible, le risque de contracter une maladie est en revanche beaucoup plus important: il varie de 15 % à 70 % en fonction de la destination, des conditions de séjour et des antécédents médicaux du voyageur. Parmi les maladies les plus fréquemment contractées, la diarrhée devance les infections des voies aériennes supérieures, les dermatoses et la fièvre. Quelques précautions comme la vaccination et une bonne hygiène peuvent radicalement diminuer les risques de contracter ces maladies. Selon l'InVS, quelques points méritent une attention particulière pour mieux voyager cette année: • Le paludisme: une maladie importée en augmentation Le paludisme, transmit par les moustiques, se caractérise par la manifestation d'épisodes aigus de fièvre avec des conséquences parfois mortelles. En France, le rapport de l'InVS évoque une augmentation de 8 % du nombre de cas en 2014 par rapport à 2013, avec 2.299 nouveaux malades. Contrairement au reste du monde où le nombre de contaminés a baissé de 30 % entre les années 2000 et 2013. Pour les autorités sanitaires, cette augmentation s'explique en partie par les opérations militaires à l'étranger, mais aussi par le nombre croissant des cas d'importation parmi la population. Le paludisme sévit principalement dans les zones tropicales, subtropicales ou tempérées chaudes d'Asie, d'Amérique latine et du Moyen-Orient. Cette maladie qui, au niveau mondiale, tue plus de personnes que le sida ne bénéficie d'aucun traitement assurant une protection totale. Pourtant, la prise préventive et journalière de médicaments antipaludiques - non remboursés et délivrés sur ordonnance - ainsi que l'utilisation de moustiquaires et de produits répulsifs ou d'insecticides, permettent de réduire les risques de contamination. • La diarrhée du voyageur: la maladie la plus répandue Le risque de diarrhée peut dépasser les 50 % pour un séjour de trois semaines et se guérit en 1 à 3 jours dans les cas les plus bénins. L'origine de l'infections peut être virale (rotavirus), bactérienne (Escherichia coli) ou parasitaire (Giardia intestinalis). En cas de diarrhée, il est recommandé de boire abondamment des liquides salés et sucrés en alternance et/ou d'utiliser des sels de réhydratation orale (sachets à diluer) pour éviter une perte importante de sels minéraux. Les précautions à prendre sont avant tout des mesures basiques d'hygiène : se laver souvent les mains et consommer de l'eau en bouteille capsulée. Pendant un voyage, le corps n'est pas habitué aux produits locaux: les autorités sanitaires préconisent donc d'éviter les glaçons, les jus de fruits frais, les crudités, les coquillages et de bien cuire les aliments. • Respecter les vaccinations: un rempart contre la plupart des maladies La plupart des maladies liées aux voyages peuvent être prévenues par la vaccination. Pour l'administration du vaccin et des conseils, il vaut mieux se tourner vers son médecin traitant ou vers un centre des voyageurs. - Vaccins nécessaires en France: vérifier la mise à jour des vaccins est essentiel avant de planifier un départ pour des maladies comme la diphtérie, le tétanos, la poliomyélite, la coqueluche et la rougeole. D'autres vaccins plus circonstanciels comme la grippe, l'hépatite A et les pneumocoques sont recommandés si l'on doit côtoyer des foules. - Vaccins nécessaires à l'étranger: ces recommandations dépendent des régions du monde, des conditions de séjour et des facteurs de risque individuels (âge, antécédents médicaux…). Les autorités sanitaires du pays peuvent demander un certificat de vaccination pour l'entrée sur le territoire: international pour des maladies comme la fièvre jaune, ou national pour des infections à méningocoques dans les pèlerinages en Arabie Saoudite. • Les comportements à risque: des conséquences parfois mortelles - Risques sexuels : différents types de maladies peuvent êtres contractés par voie sexuelle: qu'elles soient mortelles et incurables comme le VIH et l'hépatite B ou curables mais hautement contagieuses comme la syphilis, gonococcie, l'herpès etc. - Risques du tourisme médical : dans la plupart des pays aux structures sanitaires insuffisantes, les transfusions sanguines présentent un risque de transmission d'agents pathogènes allant des hépatites B et C jusqu'au VIH. Une hospitalisation peut, dans les pays en développement, provoquer des infections nosocomiales à partir de bactéries multirésistantes comme le staphylocoque doré. - Risques liés aux tatouages et piercing : ils présentent un risque majeur de transmission par le sang d'agents pathogènes des hépatites B et C et du VIH. - Risques liés aux drogues : en plus de favoriser une potentielle contamination par le sang, intoxication ou trouble du comportement, la juridiction de certains pays peut entraîner une condamnation à la peine de mort. • Trousse à pharmacie: prendre soins de ses médicaments Même si la composition de la trousse à pharmacie varie selon la destination et les pathologies personnelles, quelques conseils peuvent être appliqués. Ainsi les médicaments doivent être: dans leur emballage pour éviter les erreurs, accompagnés des ordonnances pour les contrôles et un éventuel achat sur place. Mieux vaut éviter des médicaments sous formes liquides ou en suppositoire. Ils doivent être préservés des variations de température dans un contenant hermétique, accompagnés d'un certificat en règle pour être acceptés en cabine sous forme de seringues, d'aiguilles ou de stylos injecteurs. Enfin, il est nécessaire de prévoir des doses pour tout le voyage, à garder dans le bagage à main, afin d'éviter d'acheter des contrefaçons, nombreuses dans certains pays.
In the UK, prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer in men. It’s also overtaken breast cancer in recent years to become the third most common type of cancer. That’s why any news when it comes to potential prostate cancer breakthroughs is always exciting. Immunotherapy has been revolutionising the treatment of cancer and now a team from the Institute of Cancer Research and the Royal Marsden Hospital in London have conducted a trial, the results of which they say are "spectacular" and a "big deal". The trial focussed on drugs that boost a patient’s immune system, saving the lives of some men with terminal prostate cancer. Immunotherapy works by helping a person’s immune system recognise and subsequently attack cancer cells. One of the study participants, Michael English, 72, was first diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2005. Radiotherapy, chemotherapy and hormone-based therapies did not kill his cancer, however. Then, two years ago, he started taking the immunotherapy drug pembrolizumab. Today, he is effectively cancer free, with scans no longer showing any signs of the tumour. However, it’s an approach that will not, unfortunately, help all men. In fact, only between 10% and 15% of patients had any response to the therapy at all. This is not something that’s unusual for immunotherapy. Nell Barrie, from Cancer Research UK, said: "The next step will be to find out how to tell which men will benefit from taking this drug. "This is important as although immunotherapy is exciting, it can have severe side effects".
Around 70% of women with the most common type of breast cancer could be spared chemotherapy, a new study has found. Following trials of a genetic test that analyses the danger of a tumour, it was discovered that thousands of women could avoid chemo using under a new “precision medicine” approach. The genetic test, Oncotype Dx, gives women a score between 0 and 100. Currently, women who get a low score are advised they do not need chemo. Those with a high score are told they definitely do. However, most women get a mid-range score and generally have chemotherapy. But the new study has revealed that these women have the same survival rates with or without chemo. This was particularly the case for women aged over 50. The nine-year-survival-rate was 93.9% without chemotherapy and 93.8% with chemotherapy. Cancer doctors said the findings would change practice in UK clinics on Monday, while charities said the news, affecting 3,000 UK women a year, was "wonderful". Speaking about the findings of the study, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Rachel Rawson, from the charity Breast Cancer Care, said: "Every day, women with certain types of breast cancer face the terrible dilemma of whether or not to have the treatment, without hard facts about the benefit for them. "This life-changing breakthrough is absolutely wonderful news as it could liberate thousands of women from the agony of chemotherapy."
Have you ever encountered someone who calls themself ‘fat but fit’? It’s not uncommon to meet people who are clearly overweight, yet not perturbed by their situation because they consider themselves to be fit and healthy. However, a large study conducted in America has found that women who are overweight or obese but otherwise healthy are still at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). For the study, researchers from the German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbruecke tracked the health of some 90,257 women in the US over a 30-year period. They found that women who were overweight or obese, but had none of the typical cardiovascular risk factors, such as high blood pressure, excess cholesterol and diabetes, were 20% and 39% more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than their normal weight and metabolically healthy peers. Speaking about the findings of the study, Prof Matthias Schulze, who led it, said: "Our large cohort study confirms that metabolically healthy obesity is not a harmless condition, and even women who remain free of metabolic diseases for decades face an increased risk of cardiovascular events.” The study also found women who were of normal weight, but metabolically unhealthy, were over two-times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than their peers of the same weight who were metabolically healthy. Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, added: "This large scale study confirms that obesity, even if unaccompanied by other warning signs, increases risk of cardiovascular disease in women."
It seems the slew of anti-smoking measures introduced in France have had a dramatic impact on the number of smokers in the country. According to a study conducted by Public Health France, one million people in France quit smoking in the space of a year, with initiatives such as neutral packaging, higher prices and anti-smoking campaigns being praised for attributing to the decline. In 2017, 26.9% of 18- to 75-year-olds smoked every day, compared to 29.4% a year earlier. This equates to a drop of a million smokers, from 13.2 million to 12.2 million over the period. Such a drop has not been seen in a decade and Public Health France says the results are “historic”. The study also revealed a notable decline in daily smoking habits “among the most disadvantaged”, including low-income earners and the unemployed for the first time since the year 2000. French Health Minister Agnes Buzyn welcomed the decline in smoking among those on low incomes, saying that "tobacco is a trajectory of inequality, it weighs particularly on the most disadvantaged and it gets worse". Buzyn plans to raise the price of a pack of cigarettes from around €8 today to €10 by 2020. [Related reading: Cleaning products as bad as 20-a-day cigarette habit for women – study]
Most people are familiar with the phrase, ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’, but what about an egg a day? New research suggests that a daily egg may reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Despite sometimes getting a bad press for their high cholesterol content, eggs, it seems, could help us steer clear of cardiovascular conditions, according to research published in the journal Heart. For their study, researchers from the School of Public Health at Peking University Health Science Centre in Beijing, China analysed survey data relating to more than 500,000 individuals. Of those individuals, 461,213 were free from cancer, cardiovascular disease (CVD) and diabetes at baseline. Egg consumption among the study participants was noted and the individuals were followed up with after a median period of 8.9 years. The researchers' found that individuals who usually ate about one egg per day had a 26% lower risk of experiencing hemorrhagic stroke; a 28% lower risk of death due to this type of event; and an 18% lower risk of CVD-related mortality. Current NHS guidelines in the UK relating to egg consumption state: "although eggs contain some cholesterol, the amount of saturated fat we eat has more of an effect on the amount of cholesterol in our blood than the cholesterol we get from eating eggs". So, in other words, it’s not eggs that are necessarily the problem when it comes to cholesterol, but rather how you cook them. Indeed, eggs are a great source of healthful nutrients, such as protein, vitamins, phospholipids, and carotenoids.
The modern, germ-free lifestyles many children lead could be responsible for the most common type of cancer in children - acute lymphoblastic leukaemia - according to one of the UK’s most well-respected scientists. Professor Mel Greaves, from the Institute of Cancer Research, has been studying for 30 years how the immune system can become cancerous if it is not exposed to enough bugs early in life. Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia affects one in 2,000 children and is more common in advanced, affluent societies, suggesting cleaner modern lifestyles could play a defining role. Prof Greaves says the disease happens in three stages: a genetic mutation inside the womb, a lack of exposure to microbes in early life and an immune malfunction and leukaemia in childhood. He believes that it could be possible to prevent the condition. Prof Greaves said: "The research strongly suggests that acute lymphoblastic leukaemia has a clear biological cause and is triggered by a variety of infections in predisposed children whose immune systems have not been properly primed." Unfortunately, preventing the disease isn’t as simple as exposing children to dirt. They need, according to Prof Greaves, contact with beneficial bacteria. The best way to do this is to give them a safe cocktail of bacteria, such as in a yoghurt drink, that will help boost their immune system. [Related reading: Thumb-suckers and nail-biters less prone to allergies – study]
Cranberry juice has long been used by people to provide relief from and even treat urine infections. But new draft guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) say there is not enough good evidence, despite people’s experiences, to recommend it as a treatment. Even though some studies have concluded that cranberry juice may be beneficial for people with urine infections, NICE says people should drink plenty of water or fluids and take painkillers instead. Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are caused by bacteria, which is why some people may be prescribed antibiotics to treat them, but these drugs are not always necessary. NICE says that when antibiotics are required, the shortest course possible should be prescribed to reduce the risk of antimicrobial resistance. Prof Mark Baker, director for the centre of guidelines at NICE, said: "We recognise that the majority of UTIs will require antibiotic treatment, but we need to be smarter with our use of these medicines. "Our new guidance will help healthcare professionals to optimise their use of antibiotics. "This will help to protect these vital medicines and ensure that no one experiences side effects from a treatment they do not need."
Are you a night owl or a morning person? A new study suggests that it could make a big difference to your health and it’s not good news for late risers. According to the paper authored by Dr Kristen Knutson and Professor Malcolm von Schantz, of Northwestern University (Chicago) and the University of Surrey (UK) respectively, night owls have an increased risk of early death, psychological disorders and respiratory illness than people who are, so to speak, up with the lark. The paper backs up previous research that suggests people who regularly go to bed late are more likely to suffer ill health. Over a six-year period, night owls were found to have a 10% greater risk of death than larks, according to the paper. This finding held true even after adjusting for expected health problems in people who go to bed late, such as metabolic dysfunction and heart disease. Using data extracted from the UK Biobank, a data store containing medical and genetic information relating to some 500,000 people aged 40 to 69 from across the UK, the researchers were able to determine the effect a lack of sleep has on individuals. While night owls often make up for their lack of sleep during the week by staying in bed longer at weekends – referred to as “social jet lag” - it is seemingly not enough to combat the potential health problems they face. Commenting on the findings of the research, Dr Knutson said that “night owls trying to live in a morning lark world may have health consequences for their bodies. They shouldn’t be forced to get up for an 8am shift. Make work shifts match people’s chronotypes. Some people may be better suited to night shifts.” Being a night owl was also associated with psychological stress, lack of sleep, lack of exercise, eating at the wrong time, and drug or alcohol use. So, if you're someone who regularly goes to bed late and doesn't get enough sleep during the week, maybe it's time to change your habits.
If you’re a regular cinema-goer, chances are you purchase some snacks and fizzy drinks to accompany each movie you watch. But our blog post today might make you think twice about ordering that fizzy drink on your next visit. That’s because an investigation by a UK TV programme has revealed that a startling number of cinema drinks in the country contain unacceptably high levels of bacteria. According to the investigation by BBC One’s Watchdog programme, fizzy drinks from seven out of 30 cinemas tested were found to have unacceptable bacteria levels. Even more concerning is that traces of the bacteria salmonella were discovered in two drinks served up by one of the cinema chains. Watchdog also says that ice containing unacceptable levels of bacteria was also found. Less than 1,000 units of bacteria per one millilitre of liquid is considered acceptable, but some of the ice tested in one particular cinema branch was found to contain a staggering 10 million bacteria in one millilitre of liquid. Speaking about the programme’s findings, Mr Lewis, head of policy at the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, said: "Ultimately, it's about people cutting corners and it's also about managers, owners of cinemas, managers of cinemas, not taking their responsibilities seriously and potentially keeping on top of the issues."
Women who regularly eat fast food and don’t consume enough fruit are more likely to experience problems trying to conceive, a study suggests. The study of 5,598 women in Australia, New Zealand, the UK and Ireland, which was published in the journal Human Reproduction, found that women who ate fast food four or more times a week took almost a month longer to get pregnant than those who rarely or never ate it. Furthermore, women who regularly eat junk food were also less likely to conceive within a year. Women who had eaten fruit three or more times a day, on average, conceived half a month quicker than those who had eaten it less than one to three times a month. While experts say the study suggests a good diet boosts the chances of getting pregnant, some limitations - including the participants having to remember what they’d eaten in the month before conceiving - have been highlighted. Prof Claire Roberts, from the University of Adelaide, Australia, who led the study, said: "These findings show that eating a good quality diet that includes fruit and minimising fast food consumption improves fertility and reduces the time it takes to get pregnant." [Related reading: UK hit by weight-related fatty liver disease epidemic]
Intermittent fasting is something that’s become more popular in recent times with people looking to shed a few kilograms and now new research shows that it could actually have ‘profound health benefits’. In addition to helping people lose weight, intermittent fasting, according to the research by a team at the University Of Florida College Of Medicine, can also slow down aging and disease. The human body runs on glucose, which it gets from the food we eat. However, periods of fasting force the body to find an alternative energy source. Our bodies begin to convert body fat into fatty acids which are easily absorbed by our blood. Molecules called ketones are then produced from the fatty acids, which our bodies use as a new source of energy. Stephen Anton, a researcher from the University Of Florida College Of Medicine in Gainesville, refers to this process as "flipping the metabolic switch". He says "this switch can happen after a certain period of time fasting. It's a gradation in which your metabolism overtime shifts to use higher and higher amounts of ketones for energy”. Having reviewed numerous studies that focused on the mechanisms and benefits of intermittent fasting, Anton and his team discovered that not only did intermittent fasters experience significant weight loss, they did not lose lean tissue, such as organ tissue, muscular tissue, and bone tissue, which allow our bodies to continue functioning well and could help prolong our lifespans.
A new study has revealed that many people in England are unsure about cancer risk factors and often incorrectly identify fake cancer causes. The survey of 1,330 people found that drinking from plastic bottles and using microwave ovens are two of the fake cancer causes people often cite. The good news is that 88% of people surveyed correctly identified smoking as a major cancer risk factor, while 80% picked passive smoking and 60% said sunburn were also causes of cancer - all of which have been proven. According to Cancer Research UK, smoking, overexposure to UV radiation and being overweight are the biggest preventable causes of cancer. In fact, the charity says that about four in 10 cases of cancer could be prevented with lifestyle changes and people need the right information to help them "separate the wheat from the chaff". Researchers from University College London and the University of Leeds conducted the survey and discovered that more than 40% of participants wrongly thought that stress and food additives caused cancer. Dr Samuel Smith from the University of Leeds said: "It's worrying to see so many people endorse risk factors for which there is no convincing evidence. "Compared to past research, it appears the number of people believing in unproven causes of cancer has increased since the start of the century, which could be a result of changes to how we access news and information through the internet and social media." Clare Hyde, from Cancer Research UK, said: "There is no guarantee against getting cancer - but by knowing the biggest risk factors we can stack the odds in our favour to help reduce our individual risk of the disease, rather than wasting time worrying about fake news."
Individuals who routinely drink more than one alcoholic beverage every day have an overabundance of bad bacteria and less good bacteria in their mouths, a new study has found. Compared to their non-drinking peers, drinkers have less good, such as Lactobacillales that help protect your gums, and more bad bacteria, such as certain Actinomyces, Bacteroidales, and Neisseria species that can lead to gum disease, heart problems and even some cancers. [Related reading: Regular excess drinking found to shorten life expectancy] Publishing their findings in the science journal Microbiome, the study authors said the acids found in alcoholic drinks could make the oral environment hostile for certain bacteria to grow, hence the lower number of so-called good bacteria. For the study, a group of more than 1,000 individuals had their saliva tested. The group included 270 non-drinkers, 614 moderate drinkers and 160 heavy drinkers. The results show that the drinkers had more Bacteroidales, Actinomyces and Neisseria species of bacteria, all potentially harmful, as well as fewer Lactobacillales, a family of bacteria associated with a reduction of gum inflammation. Talking about the findings of the study, Jiyoung Ahn, the study's senior investigator and an epidemiologist at the NYU School of Medicine, said: "heavy alcohol intake is a known risk factor for multiple chronic diseases, including cancers (head and neck, esophagus, colon and breast), liver disease and cardiovascular diseases."
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK, with more than 47,000 new cases diagnosed every year. And up until now, the most widely used tests for the disease had included the PSA blood test, a digital rectal examination (DRE), MRI scans and a biopsy. However, each of these wasn’t without its problems. But now a new ultrasound process, which offers more successful diagnosis and management of prostate cancer, has been identified by researchers at Dundee University. The technique, known as non-invasive shear wave elastography (SWE), offers "much greater accuracy and reliability" than current methods and is less expensive, according to the researchers. It targets the prostate with ultrasound and was evaluated using a study at Dundee University involving around 200 patients. Because cancerous tissue is denser than normal tissue, the shear waves are slowed as they pass through it. During the study, the technique was able to successfully identify 89% of prostate cancers, as well as other more aggressive cancers, including those spreading outside of the prostate. Ghulam Nabi, professor of surgical uro-oncology at Dundee University, said, "Prostate cancer is one of the most difficult to pinpoint. "We are still in a position where our diagnosis of prostate cancer is extremely inefficient, leading to unnecessary treatments for many patients." Speaking about the new test, Prof Nabi said it was “like someone has turned the lights on in a darkened room."
One in eight middle-aged UK adults is at risk of developing cirrhosis of the liver, liver failure and death because they have a potentially serious form of liver disease. The primary cause of this disease? Being overweight, according to new research. Scans of almost 3,000 people from the UK Biobank research project showed that 12% had inflamed, fatty livers. What’s particularly alarming is the silent nature of this disease epidemic, with symptoms often not presenting themselves until permanent damage has been done. However, the condition is reversible if caught in time. The good news is that a new type of MRI scan is showing lots of promise, offering a non-invasive way to evaluate the nature and severity of liver disease. Developed by Perspectum Diagnositics, a spin-off company from the University of Oxford, the new scan utilises smart health technology called LiverMultiScan. Dr Rajarshi Banerjee, CEO of Perspectum Diagnostics said: "LiverMultiScan is a great example of a smart health technology discovered and developed by UK clinicians and scientists with clear benefits for patients, the NHS, and taxpayers. Until now, needle biopsies have been the gold standard for assessing liver disease, but they are costly, invasive, painful and carry some health risks. Meanwhile, LiverMultiScan can be used in any MRI scanner, but it is not part of routine practice yet. David Breen, associate professor of radiology at University Hospital Southampton, said: "The scan gives a map of the entire liver as opposed to a needle-core biopsy which samples just one area and can be unpleasant. "It also allows us to re-scan patients over time and see if they improve."
People who regularly drink more than the UK’s recommended alcohol guidelines risk taking years off their lives, a major new report has found. According to the study of some 600,000 drinkers, having 10 to 15 alcoholic drinks every week could shorten a person's life by between one and two years. People who regularly consume more than 18 alcoholic drinks every week could lose four to five years of their lives. UK government guidelines, which were last updated in January 2016, recommend that both men and women should not drink more than 14 units of alcohol each week (equivalent to 6 pints of average strength beer). Previously, the guidelines advised 21 units for men and 14 units for women each week. The authors of the Lancet study say their findings support the UK government’s revised guidelines. Commenting on the study’s findings, Tim Chico, professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Sheffield, said: "This study makes clear that on balance there are no health benefits from drinking alcohol, which is usually the case when things sound too good to be true. "Although non-fatal heart attacks are less likely in people who drink, this benefit is swamped by the increased risk of other forms of heart disease including fatal heart attacks and stroke."
People who suffer brain injuries have an increased risk of developing dementia in later life, a new study has found. The large study of 2.8 million people found individuals who had at least one traumatic brain injury were 24% more likely to develop dementia than those who hadn’t. Interestingly, the risk was found to be greatest in people who had the brain injury while still in their 20s. These individuals were found to be 63% more likely to suffer from dementia in later life. However, despite the findings of the study, independent experts have said that other lifestyle factors, such as smoking and a lack of exercise, are actually more important. According to Dr Doug Brown, chief policy and research officer at Alzheimer's Society, these risk factors “are much easier for all of us to do something about". Nevertheless, the research does show a correlation between brain injuries and dementia. Jesse Fann, professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, said: "Our analysis raises some very important issues, in particular that efforts to prevent traumatic brain injury, especially in younger people, may be inadequate considering the huge and growing burden of dementia and the prevalence of TBI worldwide." TBI is the term used to describe a concussion.
From Friday, drinks manufacturers in the UK will have to pay a levy on the high-sugar drinks they sell, following the implementation of the ground-breaking sugar tax in the country. While ministers and campaigners say the tax is already driving positive results, with many manufacturers cutting the amount of sugar in their drinks ahead of the change, others say it’s still too early to tell. Indeed, while Fanta, Ribena and Lucozade have cut the sugar content of their drinks, Coca-Cola hasn’t. The UK joins a small handful of countries, including France, Mexico and Norway, which have introduced similar taxes in an attempt to reduce sugar consumption. Manufacturers will need to pay the levy – equivalent to 24p per litre - on any of their drinks that contain more than 8g per 100ml. It is not yet known whether the costs will be passed on to consumers in the form of price increases. Drinks containing 5-8g of sugar per 100ml will be subject to a lower rate of tax of 18p per litre. Pure fruit juices that do not contain any added sugar will be exempt, as are drinks with high milk content (due to the beneficial calcium they contain). The new tax is expected to raise around £240 million a year, which will be invested in schools sports and breakfast clubs.
NHS England is in the process of introducing ‘one-stop cancer shops’ across the country, the aim of which is to afford quicker diagnoses for patients. At present, patients often face delays as they are sent for several tests to check for different forms of the illness. Despite cancer survival rates having increased over recent decades, patients who do not display obvious signs of cancer often face treatment delays. For example, individuals who have experienced unexplained weight loss, reduced appetite or abdominal pain can be referred several times for different tests, which delays valuable opportunities to begin treatment. The approach NHS England is now adopting was first introduced in Denmark and allows patients to undergo all the necessary tests under one roof. Cally Palmer, national director for cancer at NHS England, said: "Early diagnosis is crucial to saving lives and providing peace of mind for patients, which is why we are driving forward plans to revolutionise our approach to cancer in this country. "These new one-stop shops represent a real step change in the way people with unclear symptoms are identified, diagnosed and treated." The bottom line is that the rapid diagnosis and subsequent fast treatment of cancer is vital for saving lives. Initially, there will be 10 such centres spread across England at the following locations: Royal Free Hospital, London North Middlesex Hospital, London, University College Hospitals London Southend University Hospital Queens Hospital, Romford St James University Hospital, Leeds Airedale General Hospital, West Yorkshire University Hospital, South Manchester Royal Oldham Hospital, Greater Manchester Churchill Hospital, Oxford More centres will be added if the project is a success.
New figures show that rates of tuberculosis (TB) in England are at their lowest level in 35 years, having fallen by a third in the last six years. According to data from Public Health England, tuberculosis rates have declined by 38% since 2012. In fact, there was a 9.3% decline in 2017 alone, highlighting how the country’s efforts to eradicate the disease are proving effective. Improved diagnosis, treatment and awareness are being credited for the decline. However, despite the fall, England still has one of the highest rates of TB in Western Europe, with 5,200 people affected in 2017. Dr Sarah Anderson, head of the National TB Office at Public Health England, said: "People often think that TB is a Victorian disease that is no longer a problem in England, but in fact it still affects over 5,000 people a year and there is still a lot to do until the target to eliminate TB is met.” TB is a bacterial infection that primarily affects a person’s lungs and it is spread through coughs and sneezes. But despite its infectious nature, it is actually quite difficult to catch. Nevertheless, it can be fatal if left untreated. Another issue is that TB is becoming resistant to some of the major drugs used to treat it, which is why the BCG vaccine that offers protection against TB is recommended for babies, children and adults alike who are at risk of catching the disease.
Ibuprofen is a drug that’s commonly used to treat things like headaches and muscular pain, but new research shows that it could also be effective in preventing Alzheimer’s disease. Publishing their findings in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, the research team, led by Dr. Patrick McGeer, CEO of Aurin Biotech in Canada, said ibuprofen could prevent the development of Alzheimer’s in individuals with high levels of Abeta 42. Abeta 42 is a peptide that’s present in saliva which people who are at risk of Alzheimer’s have higher levels of. Because Abeta 42 triggers an inflammatory response, the researchers say ibuprofen, a widely-used nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), could be used to halt the process. Furthermore, a simple saliva test would be enough to identify people who are at risk of developing Alzheimer’s. "What we've learned through our research," reports Dr. McGeer, "is that people who are at risk of developing Alzheimer's exhibit the same elevated Abeta 42 levels as people who already have it; moreover, they exhibit those elevated levels throughout their lifetime so, theoretically, they could get tested anytime." Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia, affecting around 5.7 million adults in the United States alone. However, this figure is predicted to rise to almost 14 million by 2050.
Are you partial to blueberry muffins? If you are, did you ever stop and think that just one could contain more than your entire recommended daily sugar allowance? According to an analysis in January by Action on Sugar and the Obesity Health Alliance, a single blueberry muffin can contain as much as eight teaspoons of sugar. The recommended daily intake for adults in the UK is just seven and it’s even less for children. The analysis highlights just how easy it is for people to exceed the recommended daily intake without even knowing it. For the analysis, Action on Sugar and the Obesity Health Alliance looked at 28 different muffins sold in a variety of locations, such as train stations and supermarkets. It found that 61% contained at least six teaspoons of sugar. Furthermore, muffins purchased at train station retailers had 19% more sugar per portion and were 32% bigger than those found in supermarkets. Caroline Cerny, from the Obesity Health Alliance, said: "We may think grabbing a blueberry muffin is a reasonably healthy option for a snack on the go compared to other cakes or a chocolate bar - yet the figures suggest otherwise. "There is huge variation in both the size of muffins and the sugar content, and with limited nutrition labelling, it's all too easy to eat a huge amount of sugar in just one serving."
While a low sperm count and problems with sperm quality are huge hurdles for couples who are trying to get pregnant, a new study shows that men with low sperm counts are also at increased risk of illness. The study of 5,177 men in Italy found that those with low sperm counts were 20% more likely to have more body fat, more "bad" cholesterol and higher blood pressure – all factors that increase the risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and stroke. They were also 12 times more likely to have low testosterone levels. Dr Alberto Ferlin, from the University of Bresci, who led the study, said: "Infertile men are likely to have important co-existing health problems or risk factors that can impair quality of life and shorten their lives. "Fertility evaluation gives men the unique opportunity for health assessment and disease prevention." The study’s authors say that men with low sperm counts should be actively checked for other potential health problems, which may have a greater chance of being rectified if treated earlier. However, the authors of the study stressed that their findings did not prove that low sperm counts cause metabolic problems, merely that the two are linked in some way.
Last month, we reported how scientists in the US had found superbug-killing antibiotics in soil. While that might have seemed an unlikely place to find something that has the potential to save countless lives, where scientists have now discovered powerful proteins capable of fighting superbugs is even stranger. Back in 2010, Australian scientists found that platypus milk contains a potent protein which is able to fight superbugs. As if Platypuses weren’t weird enough, what with their duck's beaks, venomous feet and the fact they’re mammals that lay eggs, their potentially beneficial milk only adds to their uniqueness. While it’s been years since scientists made the discovery, it’s only now that they understand why platypus milk is so good at fighting superbugs. Being monotremes, platypuses lay eggs and produce milk. However, they don’t have nipples and instead secrete milk through pores along their stomachs. It is this strange feeding system that is thought to give platypus milk its antibacterial properties, according to scientists. Dr Janet Newman, from Australia's national science agency CSIRO, said: “Platypus are such weird animals that it would make sense for them to have weird biochemistry.” While mammal milk is usually secreted via the animal’s nipples and remains sterile, platypus milk is decidedly dirtier. That’s why scientists think it contains unique antibacterial properties. Scientists hope the milk can be used to develop new antibiotics that can help fight superbugs.
Do you know how much salt you consume on a daily basis? If you’re a fan of Chinese takeaway meals, it could be far more than you ever imagined, according to a campaign group. For their research, Action on Salt analysed more than 150 Chinese takeaway dishes from both restaurants and supermarkets. They found that most contained way too much salt – almost half the average person’s recommended daily amount of salt (6g) in some cases. When it comes to the saltiest meals, dishes like beef in black bean sauce topped the list. If a person adds a portion of egg fried rice, their salt intake could rise by as much as 5.3g in one meal. In fact, one portion of beef in black bean sauce and a side of vegetable noodles was found to contain as much salt as five Big Macs. While it’s vastly more difficult with Chinese takeaway food, Action on Salt recommends people check the nutritional information on supermarket bought food to see how much salt it contains. The campaign group says that many Chinese takeaway meals should carry health warnings because of the amount of salt they contain. Too much salt can lead to increased blood pressure, which can in turn increase a person’s risk of heart attack and stroke. Public Health England (PHE) has been encouraging the food industry to reduce the amount of salt found in food. Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist for PHE, said: "A loaf of bread has 40% less than it used to. "However, some products are still too high in salt and we know this can be reduced further. "We've been very clear with the food industry on the importance of meeting the 2017 salt targets. "We'll report on their progress this year and on any necessary advice to government on the next steps." So, the next time you reach to grab your favourite Chinese takeaway meal from the supermarket, just have a quick read of the nutritional information. What you discover might just make you choose something else instead.
Older individuals who do lots of exercise can prevent their immune systems from declining and protect themselves against infection, scientists say. For the research, scientists from King’s College London followed 125 long-distance cyclists, some of who were in their 80s. They found that some had the immune systems of much, much younger individuals. For example, Prof Norman Lazarus, 82, of King's College London, who co-authored the research and took part in it, was found to have the immune system of a 20-year-old. "If exercise was a pill, everyone would be taking it. It has wide-ranging benefits for the body, the mind, for our muscles and our immune system,” he said. Speaking about the research, Prof Janet Lord, director of the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing at the University of Birmingham and co-author, said people’s immune systems decline at a rate of about 2-3% a year from the age of 20. That’s why older individuals are more susceptible to infections, rheumatoid arthritis and, potentially, cancer. Because the cyclists were found to have the immune systems of much younger people, they have added protection against conditions that tend to affect older individuals. Furthermore, the researchers believe that physically active, older individuals respond better to vaccines, meaning they are also better protected against influenza. The good news is that you don’t need to be a competitive cyclist to reap the benefits. Just being more active and puffing yourself out from time to time can help.
As part of a new obesity drive, Public Health England is telling people in the UK to “get on a diet” and wants to cut portion sizes of some of the nation’s most popular foods. Pizzas, ready meals, takeaways and processed meat will all be targeted as part of the initiative to cut calorie consumption by 20% by 2024. In addition, the government agency has called on the food industry to start using healthier ingredients and encourage people to choose lower calorie foods. The drive to eat healthier will not only improve the health of the nation, but also reduce the burden on the NHS associated with obesity-related illnesses. Public Health England says the cost per year of obesity to the NHS is £6 billion. Combined with the sugar reduction programme that came into effect last year and the sugary drinks levy which comes into force next month, this new initiative will also help reduce the number of calories consumed by children in the UK. Talking about the new steps, Public Heath England chief executive Duncan Selbie said: "Britain needs to go on a diet. Children and adults routinely eat too many calories, and it's why so many are overweight or obese." Food manufacturers, supermarkets, takeaways and fast-food outlets have all been told they need to reduce the calories in the foods such as crisps and savoury snacks, cooking sauces and dressings, ready meals and takeaways, and food-to-go like sandwiches. If these companies do not listen to PHE, the agency said it would be willing to ask the government to legislate. Guidelines suggest that women eat no more than 2,000 calories a day, while men should limit themselves to 2,500.
Diabetes has long been split into two types: type 1 and type 2. But new research suggests it could actually be five different diseases and treatment could be tailored to tackle each form. Researchers in Sweden and Finland say the more complicated diabetes picture they’ve uncovered could lead to a new era of personalised medicine being ushered in. Affecting approximately one in 11 people around the world, diabetes doesn’t just play havoc with blood sugar levels, but also increases the risk of stroke, blindness, heart attack, kidney failure and limb amputation. Type 1 diabetes, which affects around 10% of sufferers in the UK, is a disease of the immune system that attacks the body’s insulin factories, leading to there being a shortage of the hormone to control blood sugar levels. Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, is associated with poor lifestyle choices and obesity, which affect the way in which insulin works. For the study, the researchers analysed blood samples from 14,775 patients. They found that people could be separated into five distinct diabetes clusters. Talking to the BBC, Prof Leif Groop, one of the researchers, said: "This is extremely important, we're taking a real step towards precision medicine. "In the ideal scenario, this is applied at diagnosis and we target treatment better."
New research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association shows that waist-to-hip ratio is a better heart attack predictor than body mass index (BMI), with so-called “apple shape” women at greater risk than their male counterparts. According to the research from the George Institute for Global Health, waist-to-hip ratio is an 18% better heart attack predictor than BMI in women and 6% in men. However, the research also found that BMI was linked to heart disease risk in both sexes. For the research, the team from the George Institute in Oxford interviewed nearly 500,000 UK adults aged 40 to 69. They found women who had bigger waists relative to their hips are at more risk of heart attacks than men with similar body shapes. Speaking about the findings of the research, Ashleigh Doggett, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: "Considering the large amount of UK participants, this is a very interesting study which highlights that obesity remains a risk factor for heart attacks in both men and women. "Interestingly, it suggests that those of us who are 'apple' as opposed to 'pear' shape, especially women, may be at higher risk of a heart attack.” The researchers say their findings suggest the differences in the way men and women store fat may affect their risk of heart disease. While more research is needed, these findings do support the notion that being “apple shape” (having proportionally more fat around the abdomen) is more hazardous for your health than being “pear shape” (having proportionally more fat stored around the hips. The full findings of the research can be found in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
By the time they reach middle age, seven in 10 UK millennials (people born between the early 1980s and mid-90s) will be too fat, health experts say. In fact, millennials are on course to be the fattest generation ever since records began. In comparison, only about half of the so-called “baby boomer” generation (those born just after the Second World War) were fat at middle age. It’s a worrying revelation, especially as being fat as an adult is linked to an increased risk of developing 13 different types of cancer, according to Cancer Research UK who conducted the research. The charity said only 15% of the UK population are aware that being fat puts them at increased risk of breast, bowel and kidney cancer. Even more sobering is the fact Britain is now the most obese country in Western Europe and its obesity rates are rising faster than any other developed nation. In 1993, obesity prevalence was 15%, but that figure had almost doubled risen to 27% in 2015. Professor Linda Bauld from Cancer Research UK said: "Extra body fat doesn't just sit there; it sends messages around the body that can cause damage to cells. "This damage can build up over time and increase the risk of cancer in the same way that damage from smoking causes cancer.”
Do you know how many calories you consume on a daily basis? If you had to estimate, how accurate do you think you would be? An analysis of Office of National Statistics data shows that one-third of people in the UK underestimate how many calories they are eating. The research shows that British men eat more than 3,000 calories a day, but claim to only eat 2,000, while women say they eat around 1,500, when, in fact, it’s closer to 2,500. The NHS says the recommended daily calorie allowance for people who want to maintain their weight is 2,500 for men and 2,000 for women. So why the discrepancy? It’s actually a pitfall that hampers many diet-related surveys. Many people simply forget to list everything they’ve eaten, while others deliberately underestimate because they know they are part of a poll. Public Health England guidelines state that people should be looking to consume around 400 calories for breakfast, 600 for lunch and then 600 for dinner, which leaves some extra for drinks and snacks throughout the day. Eating out is one of the hardest factors for people trying to count calories. That’s because restaurants rarely list calorie information and portion sizes vary from establishment to establishment. The bottom line is that unless you are specifically counting calories, chances are you’re underestimating your daily consumption. Why not give it a try – estimate how many calories you’re consuming and then make a conscious effort to count them, you might just be surprised at the difference.
Using cleaning products regularly can be as bad for your lungs as smoking 20 cigarettes a day, a new study has found. Tracking people with an average age of 34 over a 20-year period, scientists at Norway’s University of Bergen found that women who regularly used cleaning products had lung function decline equivalent to those who smoked 20 cigarettes a day. For the study, the researchers measured the lung function of participants by testing the amount of air they were able to forcibly breathe out. They then examined the results alongside surveys answered by the study participants. They found that women who regularly used cleaning products had noticeably decreased lung capacities, as well as increased rates of asthma. Prof Cecile Svanes, who led the team from Bergen, said: "We feared that such chemicals, by steadily causing a little damage to the airways day after day, year after year, might accelerate the rate of lung function decline that occurs with age". So what should you be using instead of cleaning products? According to the scientists, microfiber cloths and water should be “enough for most purposes”, while keeping your home ventilated and using liquid cleaners, not sprays, could also help lessen the impact of cleaning products.
Scientists in the United States have found a new family of antibiotics living in soil and early tests show they could be effective in killing several bacterial diseases that have become resistant to existing antibiotic treatments. The compounds, called malacidins, have been shown to kill the superbug MRSA, which is caused by a type of staph bacteria that has become resistant to many of the traditional antibiotics used to treat such infections. Experts say the finding holds a huge amount of promise in the global fight against antibiotic-resistant bacteria. At present, they are estimated to kill around 700,000 people every year. Discovering new antibiotics in soil isn’t actually that rare. At any one time dirt is teeming with millions of different micro-organisms which produce an abundance of potentially therapeutic compounds, including new antibiotics. A team at New York's Rockefeller University, led by Dr Sean Brady, has been busy unearthing them using a gene sequencing technique to analyse soil samples taken from all over the US. The team had a hunch that malacidins might be important when they found them in many of the soil samples they analysed. Despite the potentially ground-breaking importance of the discovery, Dr Brady stressed there’s still a long way to go, saying: "It is impossible to say when, or even if, an early stage antibiotic discovery like the malacidins will proceed to the clinic. It is a long, arduous road from the initial discovery of an antibiotic to a clinically used entity."
You should never ignore back pain because it could be a sign of pancreatic cancer. That’s the frank warning from charity Pancreatic Cancer UK. While pancreatic cancer often doesn’t show any symptoms in its early stages, some signs may begin to show as the disease progresses. One of the earliest signs of the disease is abdominal and/or back pain. The pain usually starts as a general feeling of discomfort in the stomach area. This then spreads to a person’s back and while it may come and go at first, it often becomes constant over time. “It can be worse when lying down, and sitting forward can sometimes make it feel better. It may be worse after eating. The tummy area may also feel tender,” said the charity. Other symptoms of pancreatic cancer include indigestion and unexplained weight loss. People with pancreatic cancer also develop jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes) and may experience difficulty swallowing, vomiting and a change in bowel habits. Anyone experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above should see their doctor without delay. While the exact cause of pancreatic cancer still isn’t known, the disease does appear to mainly affect people over 75 years old. Experts say that people can lower their risk of developing it by reducing their consumption of alcohol and red meat. [Related reading: Prostate cancer deaths outnumber those from breast cancer for first time in UK]
The food you eat could influence the growth rate and spread of cancer, a new study has found. According to scientists at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, breast tumours in mice struggled to grow without the dietary nutrient asparagine, which is found in asparagus, poultry, seafood and many other foods. When mice with an aggressive form of breast cancer were placed on a low-asparagine diet or given drugs to block the amino acid, their tumours struggled to spread. Scientists hope to be able to take advantage of cancer’s so-called culinary addictions in the future and develop new treatments based on certain foods. Prof Charles Swanton, Cancer Research UK's chief clinician, said: "Interestingly, the drug L-asparaginase is used to treat acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, which is dependent on asparagine. "It's possible that in future, this drug could be repurposed to help treat breast cancer patients." But before you ban asparagus from your home, be aware that more research is needed, including trials in humans. Also, because asparagine is present in so many foods, it is almost impossible to avoid. Baroness Delyth Morgan, the chief executive at Breast Cancer Now, said people should not drastically alter their diets as a result of this research. "We don't recommend patients totally exclude any specific food group from their diet without speaking to their doctors,” she said.