Archive for March 2012

Call for junk food advertising ban pre TV watershed times

Television adverts for food high in fat, sugar and salt should not be shown before the 9pm watershed. Call for junk food advertising ban pre TV watershed timesScotland’s public health minister Michael Matheson has written to UK Health Secretary Andrew Lansley asking if he would support a UK wide ban.

It follows recent research which suggests children are still exposed to the same level of junk food advertising despite tighter regulations.

Health groups say further action is needed to tackle the problem.

Broadcasting regulator Ofcom brought in a ban on advertising foods high in fat, salt or sugar during children’s programming.

But a study by academics at Newcastle University found 6.1% of adverts seen by youngsters were about junk food before the ban, with the figure at 7% after the ban.

They said young people do not just watch children’s programmes, to which the rules apply.

Mr Matheson now wants the regulations to go further.

He said: “According to the UN and Ofcom studies, the restrictions brought in by Ofcom have been adhered to by children’s channels and broadcasters showing programmes specifically aimed at children.

“However, a loophole exists that allows HFSS (high in fat, sugar and salt) food adverts to feature during programmes with a high child audience such as soaps and talent shows.

“That’s why we want to introduce a pre-watershed ban and are looking to the UK government to support such a move which would carry the additional benefit of encouraging our partners in the food industry to reformulate their produce to lower salt, fat and sugar content.”

Scotland’s public health minister said such a move would require “co-operation” between the UK and Scottish governments.

He added: “Broadcast advertising influences the choices made by children and can shape their attitudes to food as they grow into adulthood.

“Tackling obesity and encouraging people to make healthier life choices is one of the most important things we can do to improve the health of our nation.”


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Poor diet linked to low sperm counts

A diet high in saturated fat has been linked with a reduced sperm count.Poor diet linked to low sperm countsA study of 99 men attending a US fertility clinic found those eating junk food diets had poorer sperm quality.

High intakes of omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish and plant oils, were associated with higher sperm concentration.

More work is needed to confirm the findings, the researchers report in the journal Human Reproduction.

The team, led by Prof Jill Attaman from Harvard Medical School in Boston, questioned men about their diet and analysed sperm samples over the course of four years.

Compared with those eating the least fat, men with the highest fat intake had a 43% lower sperm count and 38% lower sperm concentration (number of sperm per unit volume of semen).

Men consuming the most omega-3 fatty acids had sperm with a more normal structure than men with the lowest intake.

Prof Attaman said: “The magnitude of the association is quite dramatic and provides further support for the health efforts to limit consumption of saturated fat given their relation with other health outcomes such as cardiovascular disease.”

However, 71% of participants were overweight or obese, which could have had an impact on sperm quality. Furthermore, none of the men had sperm counts or concentrations below the “normal” levels defined by the World Health Organization of at least 39 million and 15 million per millilitre.

Commenting on the research, British fertility expert Dr Allan Pacey, of the University of Sheffield, said: “This is a relatively small study showing an association between dietary intake of saturated fats and semen quality.

“Perhaps unsurprisingly there appeared to be a reasonable association between the two, with men who ate the highest levels of saturated fats having the lowest sperm counts and those eating the most omega-3 polyunsaturated fats having the highest.

“Importantly, the study does not show that one causes the other and further work needs to be carried out to clarify this. But it does add weight to the argument that having a good healthy diet may benefit male fertility as well as being good general health advice.”


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Eating white rice raises diabetes risk warn academics

Regularly eating white rice could increase the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, Harvard academics have claimed in the British Medical Journal.Eating white rice raises diabetes risk warn academicsEvery large bowl (5.6oz / 158g) eaten a day is associated with an 11 per cent increased risk, they concluded from a review of four studies, two in Western countries and two in Asian ones.

White rice tends to be converted rapidly in the body into sugars, a characteristic known as having a high glycaemic index (GI).

This causes blood glucose levels to spike quickly and then fall off, which can cause problems in those who are already diabetic.

It also means one is left feeling hungry sooner than if one had eaten a low GI food like porridge. That could prompt people to overeat and become overweight, which is known to raise the risk of developing T2 diabetes.

The researchers also speculated that white rice could contribute to developing diabetes as it was lower than brown rice in fibre, magnesium and vitamins, some of which are thought to protect against the disease.

People in the Chinese and Japanese studies ate lots of white rice – typically three or four portions a day – while those in the Australian and American ones tended to eat a few portions a week.

However, the academics found higher consumption was related to higher diabetes incidence in both settings.

In conclusion, they stated that “higher white rice intake is associated with a significantly elevated risk of type 2 diabetes”, although they did concede the four studies had “mixed results”.

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Low calorie foods could work against dieters

Low calorie and fat free versions of snacks could actually cause dieters to gain weight.Low calorie foods could work against dietersScientists have discovered that fat substitutes confuse the body, gearing it up to receive calories that are never delivered.  This prompts the person to take action and raid the fridge for something a little more satisfying.

Susan Swithers, professor of psychological science at Purdue University in the US, explained: “Substituting a part of the diet with a similar tasting item that has fewer or zero calories sounds like a common-sense approach to lose weight, but there are other physiological functions at work.

“These substitutes are meant to mimic the taste of fat in foods that are normally high in fat while providing a lower number of calories, but they may end up confusing the body.”

She added: “Tastes normally alert the body to expect calories, and when those calories aren’t present we believe the systems become ineffective and one of the body’s mechanisms to control food intake can become ineffective.

“When the mouth tastes something sweet or fatty it tells the body to prepare for calories, and this information is key to the digestive process.”

She described the study as “a reminder to not discount the roles that taste and experience with food play in the way the body’s systems work together”.

She and her colleagues made their conclusions after looking at how weight fluctuated in rats.

A control group was fed full fat crisps for 28 days. The other group was first fed the full fat crisps, and then switched to fat substitute crisps.

After the four weeks the rats which had been switched to the ‘diet’ crisps weighed more and had more fatty tissue than those given the regular crisps all the time.

Professor Terry Davidson, who co-authored the study, published in the journal Behavioural Neuroscience, said: “We are looking at an animal model, but there are similarities for humans, and based on what we found, we believe that our findings question the effectiveness of using fat substitutes as part of a long-term weight loss strategy.”

Prof Swithers said they thought the dieting rats put on more weight because “learned signals that could help control food intake were disrupted”.

However, their study could not account for a major difference between dieting rats and dieting people: the rodents were not trying to lose weight.


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A sausage a day can raise the risk of pancreatic cancer by nearly one fifth

Eating a sausage a day can increase the risk of pancreatic cancer by 19 per cent and the risk goes up if a person eats more, experts have warned.A sausage a day can raise the risk of pancreatic cancer by nearly one fifthEating 50g of processed meat every day – the equivalent to one sausage or two rashers of bacon – increases the risk by 19% compared to people who do not eat processed meat at all.

For people consuming double this amount of processed meat (100g), the increased risk jumps to 38 per cent, and is 57 per cent for those eating 150g a day.

But experts cautioned that the overall risk of pancreatic cancer was relatively low – in the UK, the lifetime risk of developing the disease is one in 77 for men and one in 79 for women.

Nevertheless, the disease is deadly – it is frequently diagnosed at an advanced stage and kills 80% of people in under a year with only 5% of patients are still alive five years after diagnosis.

The latest study, published in the British Journal of Cancer, is from researchers at the respected Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.

They examined data from 11 studies, including 6,643 cases of pancreatic cancer.

They found inconclusive evidence on the risks of eating red meat overall compared to eating no red meat.

They found a 29 per cent increase in pancreatic cancer risk for men eating 120g per day of red meat but no increased risk among women. This may be because men in the study tended to eat more red meat than women.

They concluded: ”Findings from this meta-analysis indicate that processed meat consumption is positively associated with pancreatic cancer risk.  Red meat consumption was associated with an increased risk of pancreatic cancer in men. ‘Further prospective studies are needed to confirm these findings.”

Overall, smoking is thought to account for around a third of all cases of the disease, and smokers have a 74% increased risk of developing it compared to non-smokers.

Around 8,090 people were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the UK in 2008 – 3 per cent of all cancer cases – and around 7,780 people died from it.

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