Soft drinks targeted by new government health campaign

Soft drinks

Families are being urged to ditch sugary drinks and cut down on saturated fat in the latest advertising blitz by England‘s public health watchdog.

Public Health England said a family of four could reduce their sugar intake by three-quarters of a 1kg bag of sugar in just one month by swapping fizzy drinks for healthier alternatives.

Changing whole milk for semi-skimmed milk could mean the average family cutting down their fat intake by a third of a pint over four weeks, the group said.

The advertising campaign, Smart Swaps, is seeking to capitalise on the millions of Britons who begin the new year with health-conscious resolutions after the festive period.

“Swapping like-for-like food in our diet could help cut out surprising levels of saturated fat, sugar and ultimately calories without having to give up the kinds of food we like,” said Professor Kevin Fenton, director of health and wellbeing at Public Health England.

He added: “We all eat too much saturated fat and sugar, which can increase our calorie intake. Together this increases our risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some cancers.”

Families will be offered vouchers to encourage them to avoid sugary cereals and swap butter and certain cheeses for reduced-fat alternatives.

However, the move brought a backlash from the soft drinks industry. The British Soft Drinks Association (BSDA) claimed its products were being shown in a misleading and “deliberately negative” way.

Gavin Partington, director general of the BSDA, said: “It is particularly frustrating for an industry which has been working with the Department of Health to promote healthier behaviours, reformulate products so they are lower in calories, make available smaller pack sizes and focus more of its marketing investment on low- and no-calorie options.”

He took issue with the depiction in the adverts of a two-litre bottle of pop, claimed to contain the equivalent of 52 sugar cubes.

“It is also disappointing to see our products depicted by the campaign in such a deliberately negative way,” he said. “That two-litre bottle shown in the ad is not intended to be consumed by an individual, certainly not by one child. Such an extreme depiction of the consumption of soft drinks undermines the key message of the campaign, namely that it’s very easy to make a smart swap to a no-calorie, diet soft drink.”

The Children’s Food Campaign welcomed the initiative but said it would be undermined unless supermarkets made healthier foods more affordable and easier to find in stores. The body also said that vouchers offered as part of the Public Health England scheme might not be cheaper than buying own-brand healthy foods.

In a separate study released on Thursday, Cancer Research UK said tripling the tax on cigarettes would cut smoking by a third and prevent 200m premature deaths by the end of this century.

The charity called on governments across the world to raise tax on tobacco, a move it said would encourage smokers to quit and help stop young people taking up the habit.

Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: “Worldwide, around half a billion children and adults under the age of 35 are already – or soon will be – smokers, and many will be hooked on tobacco for life. So there’s an urgent need for governments to find ways to stop people starting and to help smokers give up.

“This immensely important study demonstrates that tobacco taxes are a hugely powerful lever, and potentially a triple win: reducing the numbers of people who smoke and who die from their addiction, reducing the healthcare burden and costs associated with smoking and yet, at the same time, increasing government income.”

Meanwhile the cost of joining a gym this year is continuing to rise, according to a Labour survey of 95 local authorities.

Nearly two-thirds of council-run fitness centres have increased the cost of annual membership in the last three years, some by up to £100, the survey found. A yearly gym pass now costs £368 on average, an increase of £15 since 2010, according to the research.

Luciana Berger MP, the shadow public health minister, said there was a desperate need to make leisure facilities affordable for all. “Millions of people across the country will want to kickstart 2014 by getting fitter and more active. There is a real risk however that many people will be put off from keeping to their new year’s resolutions by soaring gym charges and David Cameron’s failure to tackle the cost-of-living crisis.”

PressTV – UK food poverty turns into ‘health emergency’.

Food poverty in Britain has currently reached the levels of a “public health emergency,” a group of doctors and academics warn.

“This (food poverty) has all the signs of a public health emergency that could go unrecognized until it is too late to take preventive action,” health experts said in a letter to the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

Experts also raised concerns over the increase in the use of food banks and the number of malnourished cases, linking the problem to the rising cost of living and the UK government’s changes to the country’s welfare system.

They cited that the government statistics show the number of malnutrition-related admissions to hospitals across England has more than doubled since 2008-09.

Moreover, public health professionals draw attention to a recent report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) which found a decrease in the amount of calories consumed by British families.

Chris Mould, chief executive of the Trussell Trust, Britain’s largest organizer of food banks, urged the government to set up an inquiry into food poverty.

“These alarming developments point towards serious trouble for the nation in the years ahead unless urgent action is taken now,” Mould said.

Earlier in November, a survey showed that more than a quarter of adults in Britain have experienced food poverty during the last 12 months.

According to the poll, conducted by the Trussell Trust, store giant Tesco and food redistribution charity FareShare, some 27 percent of British adults said they found it harder to feed their family than a year ago.

Antibiotics are ‘not for snot’

Running noses and green phlegm do not mean patients need antibiotics, say doctors and public health experts.

It was described as a “prevailing myth” that the drugs were needed to treat such infections.

Snotty child

Public Health England and the Royal College of General Practitioners said the symptoms were often caused by viruses.

And the use of antibiotics was leading to resistance, they said.

Public Health England said its own research showed that 40% of people thought antibiotics would help a cough if the phlegm was green, while very few thought it would make a difference to clear-coloured phlegm.

Dr Cliodna McNulty, from the organisation, said: “It’s a prevailing myth that anyone with green phlegm or snot needs a course of antibiotics to get better.

“Most of the infections that generate lots of phlegm and snot are viral illnesses and will get better on their own although you can expect to feel pretty poorly for a few weeks.

“The problems of antibiotic resistance are growing. Everyone can help by not using antibiotics for the treatment of uncomplicated infections.”

Taking antibiotics affects the trillions of bacteria that naturally live in the human body and can lead to resistance.

Dr Maureen Baker, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs, said: “Overuse of antibiotics is a serious public health concern.

“Infections adapt to antibiotics used to kill them and can ultimately make treatment ineffective so it’s crucial that antibiotics are used appropriately.”

The green colour in phlegm and snot is the result of a protein made by the immune system to fight infection.

The latest advice comes on European Antibiotics Awareness Day.

Charles Darwin to receive apology from the Church of England for rejecting evolution.

The Church of England is to apologise to Charles Darwin for its initial rejection of his theories, nearly 150 years after he published his most famous work.

The Church of England will concede in a statement that it was over-defensive and over-emotional in dismissing Darwin’s ideas. It will call “anti-evolutionary fervour” an “indictment” on the Church”.

Charles Darwin to receive apology from the Church of England for rejecting evolution

The bold move is certain to dismay sections of the Church that believe in creationism and regard Darwin’s views as directly opposed to traditional Christian teaching.

The apology, which has been written by the Rev Dr Malcolm Brown, the Church’s director of mission and public affairs, says that Christians, in their response to Darwin’s theory of natural selection, repeated the mistakes they made in doubting Galileo’s astronomy in the 17th century.

“The statement will read: Charles Darwin: 200 years from your birth, the Church of England owes you an apology for misunderstanding you and, by getting our first reaction wrong, encouraging others to misunderstand you still. We try to practise the old virtues of ‘faith seeking understanding’ and hope that makes some amends.”

Opposition to evolutionary theories is still “a litmus test of faithfulness” for some Christian movements, the Church will admit. It will say that such attitudes owe much to a fear of perceived threats to Christianity.

Did you know you can rent out a fruit tree from an organic farmer?

A new trend beginning surface in the organic eating world is fruit tree rental programs being offered by local organic orchards. This is a great way to get organic fruit when you don’t have to time or space to grow tress at your home, or if you’re renting and can’t plant your own. It’s also a great way to save money on some fresh organic fruit!  According to

Renting one apple tree costs $55, and depending on the harvest, we could walk away with anywhere from 80 to 120 pounds of apples.  That works out to 68 cents to 45 cents per pound for organic apples!”

Here’s an excerpt from Earth First Farms‘ Rent-A-Tree FAQ page:

-Yield varies based on the tree, the year, and the weather, among other factors. We usually expect to harvest 2 or 3 bushels of apples from each tree in an average year. At about 40 pounds per bushel, that means 80 to 120 pounds of apples. In a bumper year, you may harvest up to five bushels from a single tree.

-Expect about 60% of your tree’s apples to be ready for fresh eating, and about 40% that you will want to juice, sauce, or make into pie filling.

-For more information about individual varieties, read our varietal descriptions.

-There are no guarantees as to picking dates, though we can give you estimates based on previous years. We test your apples as they begin to ripen, and when the sugar content shows that they are ready to pick, we let you know immediately.  We try to give you a week’s notice to plan a trip.

-All the apples from your tree can be picked in one trip to the farm.
The cost to rent a tree for the year is $55.

Renting a tree takes many of the limitations to living in the city out of the picture. Most of the work and maintenance will be done by the farmers who own the trees, while you get to reap the rewards of the harvest!

This new trend is still fairly unknown, however word travels quickly once people start to discover this great idea. One Cherry orchard in England has already rented out all of their trees through 2015 after a news story was doneabout their farm.

“Dallaway launched Rentacherrytree in 2008, and found renters for 300 trees almost immediately. By the following year he had let 500 trees, and this year his whole orchard is taken (bar the 500 trees he keeps aside to supply local markets and farm shops). Those who rent a cherry tree can come and see it in full bloom each spring, picnic in a field among the blossom, and then return in the summer to pick the fruit. They also receive a bi-monthly newsletter and are invited to a hog roast during the picking, and each September they can renew their option for the following year. (Roughly 500 trees become available again each September, so now is the time to join the waiting list for 2014.)”

Most orchards will keep you up to date via email about the progress of the tree you rented. Depending on the type of agreement you choose, you may be able to go and pick the fruit from your tree when it is ready for harvest or choose to have the fruit picked and shipped to you.

Find out if any farmers near you have and tree rentals or leasing programs. If they don’t, then talk to them about it! It’s a win for the farmer who is able to basically pre-sell his produce, and the consumer which will get awesome organic fruit at below wholesale prices.


Hopes of hepatitis C cure raised after antiviral drug treatment success.

Sofosbuvir and ledipasvir stop virus replicating in 97% of patients in study reported in the Lancet journal

Hepatitis C virus seen through an electron microscope. Photograph: UIG/Getty

Scientists have reported the successful eradication of hepatitis C in patients using two new antiviral drugs, raising hopes of a possible cure.

In the trial, the virus was eliminated from almost all the patients involved, including those who had not previously responded to existing drugs.

Hepatitis C is caused by a virus that spreads via bodily fluids and ends up damaging the liver. Unlike other forms of hepatitis, there is no vaccine and the only treatments include powerful combinations of drugs known as interferons and protease inhibitors. But the treatments have many side-effects, are complex to administer and, in the common type of hepatitis C known as genotype 1, the drugs do not work. If an infection cannot be cured, it can lead to liver cancer.

The new treatment, reported in medical journal the Lancet on Tuesday , consists of the experimental drugs sofosbuvir and ledipasvir. In the trial, 100 patients with genotype 1 hepatitis C were split into groups and given the drugs in a single pill for either eight or 12 weeks. Forty of the participants had previously failed to respond to drugs and half of this group had cirrhotic livers.

After 12 weeks, 97% of the participants had what scientists called a “sustained virological response”, which meant that the hepatitis C virus was not replicating inside them. The patients suffered varying amounts of side-effects, including nausea, anaemia, respiratory tract infections and headaches, but none were considered to be serious.

Professor Eric Lawitz of the University of Texas, who led the study, said the results offered hope to people currently without treatment options: “The results of this trial suggest that the fixed-dose combination of sofosbuvir and ledipasvir could offer patients a short, all-oral treatment that might be highly effective and safe in patients who tend not to respond well to existing therapies, including individuals with cirrhosis, or black race, resistant strains of the virus.”

Charles Gore, chief executive of the Hepatitis C Trust, said the new drug combination was great news. “We were concerned that those with advanced hepatitis C would remain difficult to treat, but these new direct antivirals are incredibly potent. The results suggest that even the most difficult to treat people will in fact be extremely treatable. It now looks as if almost no one will be excluded from benefiting from treatment, which is an incredible achievement.

“There are a number of exciting new drugs on the horizon. However, of the 215,000 people estimated to be living with the virus in the UK, less than half have been diagnosed. In England, only 3% of hepatitis C patients receive treatment each year. There is no point having these treatments if we can’t use them, so we must ensure that we diagnose more people who can avail of them.”

In 2010, a total of 7,834 new hepatitis C cases were reported in England, though the true figure is probably much higher. Rates of infection are greater in people of African descent than in other ethnic groups.

The virus is present in the blood and, to a much lesser extent, the saliva and semen or vaginal fluid of an infected person.

It is most likely to be transmitted through blood-to-blood contact. Intravenous drug users who share their needles are known to be especially vulnerable.

Professor Margaret Hellard of the Burnet Institute in Melbourne, Australia, who co-authored a linked comment on the research published in the Lancet, said: “As a proof of concept study, [this] demonstrates very high response rates, regardless of the presence of cirrhosis, prior treatment failure, or [resistant] genotype.”

She cautioned, however, that the study was small, based at a single location and only had a short follow-up, which she said raised concerns about how representative the sample was and whether early clinical trial results could be generalised to real-world settings. “Whilst giving cause for optimism, the full implications of these results need to be tempered for now,” she wrote.

Free vitamins for all under-fives advised by chief medical officer

Vitamin pills

All under-fives may be offered free vitamins on the NHS in an effort to curb the rising tide of illness, such as rickets, linked to them getting too little vitamin D.

Dame Sally Davies, the government’s chief medical officer, wants ministers to consider extending the offer from low-income families to all children under the age of five.

She has asked the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) to investigate whether giving all children in that age group vitamins A, C and D, in the form of drops or tablets, would be cost effective.

Davies said the return of rickets, and the implication of vitamin D in other ill-health, meant that offering every family with under-fives free vitamins was necessary.

She pointed to a scheme in Birmingham in which universal access to vitamins is credited with halving the number of cases of rickets in the city.

As many as 40% of young children do not get enough vitamin D, said Davies, as she launched her annual report into children’s health and the state of NHS physical and mental health services for children.

The number of under-18s who have been admitted to hospital in England for rickets soared from 190 in 2002-03 to 748 in 2011-12, NHS figures show.

Hilary Cass, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, welcomed Davies’ initiative but cautioned that take-up of free vitamins under the Healthy Start programme had been less than 10%, according to a study in 13 NHS trust areas published in May. It offers the vitamins to people on low incomes and to pregnant women.

However, she added: “Widespread supplementation is already happening in some countries and should certainly be looked at in the UK.

“We are seeing a growing number of cases of vitamin-D related illnesses amongst children and young people, and supplementation is a key way of getting the required amount.

“Of course we need to see how cost effective it would be to offer these vitamins free to everyone; but quite often the benefits outweigh the costs.”

Seizures and developmental delay in babies are also associated with a lack of vitamin D, which is obtained naturally from sun on the skin and certain foods, such as eggs and oily fish.

Claire Lemer, editor of the report, said: “There is no single reason why parents do not give their children vitamins.

“It could be due to a range of reasons – from not being aware of their benefits to them not being easily accessible.

“But we do know from studies that making vitamins available to all can lead to a boost in families taking up the offer.”

All children offered flu nasal spray

  • Flu is a respiratory illness linked to infection by the influenza virus.
  • Symptoms usually include headache, fever, cough, sore throat, aching muscles and joints.
  • Influenza occurs most often in winter and usually peaks between December and March.
  • The virus was first identified in 1933.
  • There are two main types that cause infection: influenza A and influenza B
  • New strains of the virus are constantly emerging, which is why the flu vaccine should be given each year.

A flu vaccine nasal spray is being offered to every two and three-year-old in Scotland for the first time.

Previously, only children in “at risk” groups were offered the protection.

Scotland’s largest ever immunisation programme was launched by First Minister Alex Salmond, who received the vaccine in a surgery in Aberdeenshire.

He said that as an asthmatic, he gets the injection every year and urged other eligible Scots to get protected before the winter.

A fifth of the Scottish population will be offered a free flu vaccine, including people aged over 65 and those with conditions that put them at greater risk.

For the first time, all two and three-year-olds – about 120,000 children – will be offered the vaccine, as well as 100,000 primary school pupils in health board areas which are taking part in a pilot programme.

The programme will be rolled out to eventually see about one million children aged between two and 17 have the chance to be immunised towards the end of 2015.

The vaccine will take the form of a nasal spray rather than an injection.

Scotland’s senior medical officer said the spray, which is being phased in this autumn and rolled out over the next two years, was more effective in children than injections, as well as simpler to administer.

Speaking after receiving his own vaccine, Mr Salmond said it was better to be safe than sorry.

“As an asthmatic, I get my flu vaccination every year to make sure I’m protected and ready for the winter and I’m delighted to launch this national campaign,” he said.

“It is hugely successful and the existing programme has seen 2,000 fewer hospitalisations and 25,000 fewer GP consultations.

“For the first time this winter we are taking extra precautions to protect families by making sure children are also offered this vital vaccine.”

Senior medical officer Dr Nicola Steedman said every year she sees examples of how devastating flu can be.


She added: “For those with existing health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart or liver problems, flu can result in serious complications.

“Furthermore, those who are pregnant or over 65 are also at increased risk of flu and its complications and should be vaccinated to help protect against flu, even if they currently feel healthy and fit.


“Flu can also be very serious for children, particularly the youngest ones who have little or no immunity to the infection, which is why we are rolling out the new childhood flu immunisation programme.”

All two and three-year-olds in England and Wales will be also offered the vaccine this winter. In Wales, children aged 11 to 12 will also be eligible, while children aged between two and 10 in certain areas of England will be offered protection.

Source: BBC

Multiple sclerosis patients are missing out on drugs.

Only 40% of people eligible for drugs to combat multiple sclerosis in the UK are actually taking them, says a report from the MS Society.

A survey of more than 10,000 adults with MS showed that many were missing out on the seven licensed medicines approved for use.

The charity said a lack of information and access to specialists was to blame.


It is calling for the government to provide a personalised care plan to every person with MS.

The MS Society’s survey and accompanying report showed that there were differences in access to disease-modifying treatments (DMTs) across the four nations of the UK.

These are medicines that can reduce the frequency and severity of MS attacks, and in some cases can slow the progression of the disabling condition.

Someone living in Northern Ireland with MS was twice as likely to be taking a DMT (68%) than someone with the condition in Wales (30%), for example.

Access to treatment in Scotland and England was only a little higher at 36% and 40%.

What is multiple sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurological condition that affects around 100,000 people in the UK.

Most patients have it diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 40, but it can affect younger and older people too.

Almost three times as many women as men have MS.

In Europe, additional research shows that only Poland and Romania have a smaller proportion of people with MS taking licensed medicines.

Routine assessment

The charity’s report said that being well informed about the medicines available was crucial.

Those who felt they had enough information about medicines were 32% more likely to be taking a DMT, the survey found, and those with access to a specialist MS nurse or neurologist were more than twice as likely to be taking the appropriate drugs.

Northern Ireland is the only place in the UK where most people with MS are routinely invited every six months to see a neurologist or MS nurse for a review.

This means that people with MS are constantly having their treatment options assessed, the report says.

As a result, they are more likely to get the information they need and discuss issues such as side-effects.

UK licensed medicines for MS

  • Avonex, Betaferon, Rebif and Copaxone were all made available on the NHS in 2002 throughout the UK.
  • Extavia was licensed in 2009 and reduces relapses by a third.
  • Tysabri is a monthly infusion administered by a healthcare professional. It can reduce the number of relapses by an estimated 67% and slow disability. It was approved for use on the NHS across the UK in 2007.
  • Gilenya, the first pill for MS, is said to reduce relapse rates by 54-60% and slows disability progression by around 30%. It was approved in 2012.

Yet this may not be the only solution. Forty-one per cent of those who said they did have enough information about drug treatments still did not take a disease-modifying treatment.

The report concluded: “This could be due to barriers to accessing medicines; because individuals make an informed decision not to take them; or because they don’t know what information is out there that they could have access to, such as around new treatments or new evidence of efficacy.”

New policy

Nick Rijke, director for policy and research at the MS Society, said people with multiple sclerosis were facing a lottery.

“These findings worryingly suggest that the likelihood of someone receiving a life-changing treatment is often based on luck – like where they live or how helpful their healthcare professional is – rather than their genuine clinical need.

“When it comes to prescription rates, the UK ranks 25th out of 27 European countries. Given the relative wealth of the UK this is simply unacceptable.”

The MS Society is now calling on all four governments in the UK to ensure every person with MS has a personalised treatment, care and support plan, with two comprehensive reviews each year.

Ed Holloway, head of care and services research at the MS Society, said that because some MS drugs were costly, they were often not offered when they should be because of restricted NHS budgets.

A spokesman for NHS England, which has recently taken on the commissioning of treatment for MS from primary care trusts, said a new policy from 1 April would mean that people across England would have the same access to treatment.

“By making decisions nationally about specialist treatments, we are confident that patients will now be able to receive the treatment they need, irrespective of where they live.

“As with all policies, we will continue to collect and review the outcome of treatments for patients and consider them when our policy is reviewed.

“If a patient has concerns about the treatment they are receiving we would urge them to speak to their GP or consultant.”





1,600-Year-Old Goblet Shows that the Romans Were Nanotechnology Pioneers.

Researchers have finally found out why the jade-green cup appears red when lit from behind

The colorful secret of a 1,600-year-old Roman chalice at the British Museum is the key to a super­sensitive new technology that might help diagnose human disease or pinpoint biohazards at security checkpoints.


The glass chalice, known as the Lycurgus Cup because it bears a scene involving King Lycurgus of Thrace, appears jade green when lit from the front but blood-red when lit from behind—a property that puzzled scientists for decades after the museum acquired the cup in the 1950s. The mystery wasn’t solved until 1990, when researchers in England scrutinized broken fragments under a microscope and discovered that the Roman artisans were nanotechnology pioneers: They’d impregnated the glass with particles of silver and gold, ground down until they were as small as 50 nanometers in diameter, less than one-thousandth the size of a grain of table salt. The exact mixture of the precious metals suggests the Romans knew what they were doing—“an amazing feat,” says one of the researchers, archaeologist Ian Freestone of University College London.

The ancient nanotech works something like this: When hit with light, electrons belonging to the metal flecks vibrate in ways that alter the color depending on the observer’s position. Gang Logan Liu, an engineer at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who has long focused on using nanotechnology to diagnose disease, and his colleagues realized that this effect offered untapped potential. “The Romans knew how to make and use nanoparticles for beautiful art,” Liu says. “We wanted to see if this could have scientific applications.”

When various fluids filled the cup, Liu suspected, they would change how the vibrating electrons in the glass interacted, and thus the color. (Today’s home pregnancy tests exploit a separate nano-based phenomenon to turn a white line pink.)

Since the researchers couldn’t put liquid into the precious artifact itself, they instead imprinted billions of tiny wells onto a plastic plate about the size of a postage stamp and sprayed the wells with gold or silver nanoparticles, essentially creating an array with billions of ultra-miniature Lycurgus Cups. When water, oil, sugar solutions and salt solutions were poured into the wells, they displayed a range of easy-to-distinguish colors—light green for water and red for oil, for example. The proto­type was 100 times more sensitive to altered levels of salt in solution than current commercial sensors using similar techniques. It may one day make its way into handheld devices for detecting pathogens in samples of saliva or urine, or for thwarting terrorists trying to carry dangerous liquids onto airplanes.

The original fourth-century A.D. Lycurgus Cup, probably taken out only for special occasions, depicts King Lycurgus ensnared in a tangle of grapevines, presumably for evil acts committed against Dionysus, the Greek god of wine. If inventors manage to develop a new detection tool from this ancient technology, it’ll be Lycurgus’ turn to do the ensnaring.