Exercise

Tax on sugary drinks backed by MPs

A tax on sugary drinks should be introduced as part of a “bold and urgent” set of measures to tackle child obesity in England, MPs say.

A tax on sugary drinks should be introduced as part of a "bold and urgent" set of measures to tackle child obesity in England, MPs say.

The Commons’ Health Committee said there was now “compelling evidence” a tax would reduce consumption.

Its report, which puts pressure on ministers who have so far been resisting a tax, also proposes a crackdown on marketing and advertising.

Food industry representatives say a new tax would be unfair on consumers.

The government will be setting out its plans early next year when it publishes a child obesity strategy, but has said a tax is not something it favours.

The cross-party group of MPs acknowledged no single measure would provide a solution to the problem.

But the committee’s report said calls for a tax could “no longer be ignored”.

It pointed to evidence from Mexico which introduced a tax on sugar-sweetened drinks of 10% and saw a 6% reduction in consumption.

The MPs urged the government to use the strategy to take strong action on the issue, pointing out that a fifth of children start primary school overweight or obese, rising to a third by the time they leave.

As well as a tax, the committee called for:

A crackdown on price promotions of unhealthy foods Tougher controls on marketing, including the use of cartoon characters to promote unhealthy food A ban on advertising unhealthy foods on television before 21:00 Clearer labelling of products showing sugar content in teaspoons A drive to force industry to reduce sugar in food and drink as has happened with salt

The MPs said the government in England should work with its counterparts in the rest of the UK on these points.

There has been growing concern about the damaging impact of sugar on health – from the state of people’s teeth to type-2 diabetes and obesity Sugar has been dubbed “empty calories” because it has no nutritional benefit Government advisers recommend no more than 5% of daily calories should come from sugar That is about 1oz (25g) – six or seven teaspoons – for an adult of normal weight every day. For children, it is slightly less The limits apply to all sugars added to food, as well as sugar naturally present in syrups and honey To put this in context, a typical can of fizzy drink contains about nine teaspoons of sugar

Public Health Minister Jane Ellison said: “This government is committed to turning the tide on childhood obesity. That is why we are developing a comprehensive strategy looking at all the factors, including sugar consumption, that contribute to a child becoming overweight and obese. This will be published in the coming months.”

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Are chilli peppers good for you?

Now research indicates that the chilli peppers may make our lives more interesting as well as also make them longer.

Now research indicates that the chilli peppers may make our lives more interesting as well as also make them longer.

We now know that chillies are also a good source of antioxidants. Forty-two grams of the spice would account for your recommended daily allowance of vitamin C, although admittedly that would make for a pretty strong curry. They are also rich in vitamin A, as well as minerals such as iron and potassium.

Capsaicin has even been touted as a potential weight-loss tool. Research conducted this year by the University of Wyoming on mice that had been fed a high-fat diet found that the molecule increased metabolic activity in the animals, causing them to burn more energy and preventing weight gain. In another study, published last month in Plos One, researchers at the University of Adelaide found that the receptors in the stomach that interact with capsaicin play a role in sensing when we are full.

But what about heart disease and cancer? The recent study in China found a correlation between the consumption of spicy food and lower rates of death from those diseases – and laboratory research from the last 10 years suggests some possible reasons for that too.

In 2012, a team of nutritionists at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, working with hamsters, found that capsaicin helped break down so-called “bad” cholesterol which might have clogged up the animals’ arteries, but it left alone the “good” cholesterol which helps remove it. There was a second benefit for cardiac health too – the capsaicin appeared to block the action of a gene that makes arteries contract, restricting blood flow.

Several studies have also indicated that capsaicin has powerful anti-cancer properties. It has been found to be helpful in fighting human prostate and lung cancer cells in mice, and there are also indications that it could be used as a treatment for colon cancer. It may also improve drug resistance for bile-duct cancer sufferers.

But before people make any radical changes to their diet, they are advised to wait for a clinical trial to be conducted using humans, not rodents.

“There are a lot of reports that say that capsaicin may be good for human health, especially with cancer,” says Zigang Dong at the Hormel Institute of the University of Minnesota. “However, there are other reports that show totally the opposite result.”

Dong is the co-author of a 2011 review, published in the journal Cancer Research, titled The Two Faces of Capsaicin, in which claims about the spice’s benefits for health are laid alongside a long list of counter-claims, pointing to negative effects.

The report details six studies on rats and mice in which the animals developed signs of cancer in the stomach or liver after their diet was changed to include more capsaicin. Meanwhile, studies examining the effects of capsaicin on the human stomach have delivered wildly divergent results. While one showed visible gastric bleeding after consumption of red pepper, another showed no abnormalities, even when ground jalapeno peppers were placed directly in the stomach.

“Probably it is harmful in the stomach or oesophagus because capsaicin itself can cause inflammation,” says Dong. “And if anything can cause inflammation or so-called burning effect, it must cause some cell deaths and therefore the long-term chronic inflammation is maybe harmful.”

Far from seeing the chilli’s piquancy as an evolutionary “trick” that we are clever enough to see through, as Joshua Tewksbury does, he sees it as a hint to eat the food in moderation – a hint that many of us are ignoring.

Capsaicin – and the chilli pepper – remains enigmatic. But whether it is a friend or foe, we’re exposing ourselves to it more and more. Between 1991 and 2011, global consumption of dry chillies increased by 2.5% per year, while our per capita intake increased by 130% in that time.

“There’s a worldwide huge consumption of this spice, or vegetable, or whatever you want to call it,” says Dong. “It’s consumed everywhere in the world. Therefore its impact is huge for human health.”

Capsaicin – a natural painkiller

Capsaicin creams and patches are available in chemists to ease pain. But it’s only in the past 20 years that we have come to understand the contradiction of how something that causes pain can ease it too.

Capsaicin binds to the pain receptor TRPV1, which our brains also use to detect changes in temperature – that’s why we think chillies are hot.

But after being over-stimulated the neurons stop responding, killing the pain. This process involves the release of endorphins, which can give us a “rush” not dissimilar from the feeling of having exercised well. This may explain why some people believe that hot food is addictive.

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Can we cut sugar levels in our food?

The amount of sugar in some packaged food must be reduced, the health authorities say.

The amount of sugar in some packaged food must be reduced, the health authorities say.

It is an approach that has worked before, with salt – but can the trick be repeated?

Fifty years ago, everyday products, from bread to tinned vegetables, had much higher salt levels. Then, the government got involved and targets were set. A typical loaf of bread now has 40% less salt than it did in the 1980s, with about a 10% reduction in just the past three years.

The gradual changes went largely unnoticed by consumers and led to an adjustment in the nation’s palate.

Now, Public Health England says a similar programme for sugar – in products such as biscuits, cakes, puddings, yoghurts, cereals and drinks – along with reductions in portion size, would have positive health benefits.

A 50% reduction in the amount of sugar from these foods would lower sugar intakes for adults from 12% to 9% of energy and for children and teenagers from about 15% to 10%.

Some food and drink companies have already reduced the sugar content of some products in large steps, maintaining sweetness by adding a no- or low-calorie sweetener.

In fact, one of the expanding areas of food manufacturing is alternatives to sugar – there are many natural and artificial alternatives on the market.

One plant, Stevia, is 200 times as sweet with none of the calories. Unheard of four years ago, it is already used in dozens of big brands such as Heinz ketchup and baked beans, Coca Cola Life and Sprite. Often, it is introduced gradually, and buried away deep in the ingredients list.

Olivier Kutz, from Pure Circle, which produces Stevia products, says some brands or manufacturers will list it clearly on the label. “Others choose not to shout about it for various reasons – it could be because it’s an everyday product and they don’t want to confuse consumers,” he says.

Some consumers are wary about artificial sweeteners – aspartame was removed from Diet Pepsi in the US earlier this year after concerns about potential side-effects. Frighten customers

 

And there is another problem with removing sugar from recipes – it causes technical problems.

At Nottingham Trent University, food scientists experiment with baking cakes with different levels of sugar and artificial sweeteners – the results, in terms of taste and appearance, are mixed.

Senior food lecturer Christine Walker says: “Sugar has functions within the recipe, as most things do. Of course it provides sweetness and adds to the pleasant flavour, but it also adds texture to it and it also has a caramelising effect so it browns, so it’s aesthetically pleasing. We eat with our eyes, so if it doesn’t look good, we’re not going to eat it. So it has those things and and if you start to take sugar away from it, those things may well be changed.”

The government report suggests that for some confectionery, portion-size reduction may be an easier way of cutting down on sugar levels.

In the meantime, Ms Walker and her team will keep experimenting. “You can take it out. It’s whether customers will buy it, because that’s the bottom line isn’t it? It’s one of those things, trial and error. But the customer says they want less so we try very hard to do that,” she says.

If obesity is – as the government says – the biggest public health threat facing our children, then we might have to accept the food we buy will have to change. And the companies selling us the stuff may have to work harder to come up with recipes that are not just good for our palette but our waistline too.

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Multivitamins wishes you a healthy New Year

Multivitamins wishes you a healthy New Year! Multivitamins wishes you a healthy New YearMultivitamins wishes you a happy, health and prosperous New Year for 2014.

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UK’s five big killers

Five big killers – heart disease, stroke, cancer, lung and liver disease – account for more than 150,000 deaths a year among under-75s in England alone and the Department of Health estimates 30,000 of these are entirely avoidable.UK's five big killersCoronary Heart Disease is the biggest killer, causing almost 74,000 deaths each year in the UK- that’s about 200 people dying every day.

More than a quarter of the deaths occur in people who are younger than 75 and experts say the majority are preventable.

Smoking, being overweight and having high blood pressure are all risk factors.

About one in three adults in England and Scotland have high blood pressure and nearly half of them are not receiving treatment for the condition, says the British Heart Foundation.

Between April 2011 and March 2012 only 2% of those eligible in England actually had a health check. Out of nearly 16 million people eligible, about 425,000 were offered a check and 211,000 took up the offer.

England has one of the highest rates of asthma prevalence in the world. Figures from GP registers in 2008 suggested that about 6% of the English population has asthma.

And more than three million people in England are living with COPD. This lung disease kills about 23,000 people a year in the UK.

The most important cause of COPD is smoking, but about 15% of cases are work-related, triggered by exposure to fumes, chemicals and dusts at work.

Premature deaths from COPD in the UK was almost twice as high as the European average in 2008 and premature mortality for asthma was more than 1.5 times higher.

The disease is one of the most common causes of emergency admission to hospital and is expensive in terms of acute hospital care. It costs nearly 10 times more to treat severe COPD than the mild disease.

Strokes are the third leading cause of death in England each year and the leading cause of disability. More than 150,000 people have a stroke every year in the UK but, according to The Stroke Association, up to 10,000 of these could be prevented if more people were aware of the symptoms and sought out emergency treatment.

Symptoms can include facial weakness, speech problems and pins and needles down one side of the body.

The Health Secretary Mr Jeremy Hunt says a major challenge is getting all parts of the country to meet the performance levels of the best.

For example, if all patients suffering from a mini stroke (transient ischaemic attack or TIA) were treated as rapidly as those treated in the top 25% of hospitals, 540 strokes would be avoided each year, which in turn would save the NHS £4.5m a year.

Cancer has now become so common that today one in 30 people living in the UK either has cancer or is in remission. By 2030 it is estimated that three million people in England will have had some form of cancer.

The good news is that cancer survival rates are now improving in the UK.

More men are now surviving prostate and bowel cancer and women with breast cancer have a better outlook than ever before. But the UK still lags behind other European countries in terms of cancer survival.

Cancer Research UK says part of the problem is unhealthy lifestyles. It is estimated that about a third of cancers are caused by smoking, diet, alcohol and obesity.

And many cancers are detected too late. Although there are national screening programmes for certain cancers, like breast and cervical, public awareness of symptoms and the need to seek help early is still too low.

Another issue is access to treatment. Waiting times to see a doctor for speedy diagnosis and treatment have come down. But the provision of certain types of cancer investigations and treatments across the UK is variable and some groups of society, like the very old, can miss out.

Lastly, the Chief Medical Officer of England, Prof Dame Sally Davies, highlighted liver disease as an issue in her annual report.

It is the only major cause of mortality and morbidity that is on the increase in England while it is decreasing among European peers.

Between 2000 and 2009, deaths from chronic liver disease and cirrhosis in the under 65s in England increased by about 20% while they fell by the same amount in most EU countries. And all three major causes of liver disease – obesity, undiagnosed infection, and, increasingly, harmful drinking – are preventable.

More than a third of men and over a quarter of women regularly exceed the government recommended level of alcohol intake – three to four units of alcohol a day for men and two to three units for women.

The government in England is currently considering whether to set a minimum unit price for alcohol to deter problem drinking and cut alcohol-related illness.

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Olympian lifespan is possible for all

The longevity lifespan that Olympians enjoy is within the reach of everyone, doctors say.Olympian lifespan is possible for allResearch Survival of the fittest: retrospective cohort study of the longevity of Olympic medallists in the modern era published by the British Medical Journal (BMJ) suggests athletes live 2.8 years longer on average than the average lifespan.

The research indicated those who took part in non-contact sports such as cycling, rowing and tennis enjoyed the longest life of all.

But the general population could have a similar “survival advantage” by doing a little more exercise, experts said.

The conclusion by two public health professors came after they reviewed two studies of Olympic athletes published by the BMJ website.

The studies looked at the lifespan and health of 25,000 athletes who competed in Games dating back to 1896.

Those taking part in contact sports such as boxing had the least advantage, while cyclists and rowers enjoyed the best health.

But the researchers also found those who played lower intensity sports such as golf enjoyed a boost.

Possible explanations put forward for the finding included genetic and lifestyle factors and the wealth and status that comes with sporting success.

The recommended level of physical activity for adults is 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise each week.

Studies suggest people who manage that amount or more live for up to several years longer than those that do not.

Writing for the BMJ website, the professors said: “Although the evidence points to a small survival effect of being an Olympian, careful reflection suggests that similar health benefits and longevity could be achieved by all of us through regular physical activity.

“We could and should all award ourselves that personal gold medal.”

But they said governments were still not doing enough to promote the benefits of physical activity, calling it a “public health failure”.

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Exercise could repair heart damage

Vigorous daily exercise could repair damage caused by a heart attack, a new study has suggested.Exercise could repair heart damageResearchers found for the first time that regular and strenuous exercise can make dormant stem cells in the heart spring into life, leading to the development of new heart muscle.

Scientists had already discovered that stem cells could be coaxed into producing new tissue through injections of chemicals known as growth factors, but the new study is the first to suggest that a simple exercise programme has a similar effect.

The findings suggest that damage from heart disease or failure could be at least partially repaired through 30 minutes of running or cycling a day, at enough intensity to work up a sweat.

An early-stage study on healthy rats showed that an equivalent amount of exercise resulted in more than 60 per cent of heart stem cells, which are usually dormant in adults, becoming active.

After just two weeks of exercise the mice had a seven per cent increase in the number of cardiomyocites, the “beating” cells in heart tissue, researchers reported in the European Heart Journal.

The team from Liverpool John Moores University said they would now study the effects on mice which had suffered heart attacks to determine whether it could have an even greater benefit.

Dr Georgina Ellison, who led the study, said: “The exercise is increasing the growth factors which are activating the stem cells to go on and repair the heart, and this is the first time that this potential has been shown.

“We hope it might be even more effective in damaged hearts because you have got more reason to replace the large amount of cells that are lost.”

Although some patients with severe heart damage may not be capable of intensive exercise, Dr Ellison said a significant number would easily be able to jog or cycle for 30 minutes a day without risking their health.

“In a normal cardiac rehabilitation programme patients do undertake exercise, but what we are saying is maybe to be more effective it needs to be carried out at a higher intensity, in order to activate the resident stem cells,” she said.

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Exercising in your 70s may stop brain shrinkage

Exercising in your 70s may stop your brain from shrinking and showing the signs of ageing linked to dementia, say experts from Edinburgh University.Exercising in your 70s may stop brain shrinkageBrain scans of 638 people past the age of retirement showed those who were most physically active had less brain shrinkage over a three-year period.

Exercise did not have to be strenuous – going for a walk several times a week sufficed. But giving the mind a workout by doing a tricky crossword had little impact.

The study found no real brain-size benefit from mentally challenging activities, such as reading a book, or other pastimes such as socialising with friends and family.

When the researchers examined the brain’s white matter – the wiring that transmits messages round the brain – they found that the people over the age of 70 who were more physically active had fewer damaged areas than those who did little exercise.

And they had more grey matter – the parts of the brain where the messages originate.

Experts already know that our brains tend to shrink as we age and that this shrinkage is linked to poorer memory and thinking and previous studies have shown that exercise helps reduce the risk of dementia and can slow down its onset.

But scientists are still baffled about why this is.

Exercise increases blood flow to the brain, delivering oxygen and nutrients to brain cells, which may be important.

Or it may be that as people’s brains shrink, they become less inclined to exercise.

Regardless of why, experts say the findings are good news because exercise is an easy thing to do to boost health.

Prof James Goodwin, head of research at Age UK, the charity that provided the funding for the research, said: “This research re-emphasises that it really is never too late to benefit from exercise, so whether it’s a brisk walk to the shops, gardening or competing in a fun run it is crucial that, those of us who can, get active as we grow older.”

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Intensive two minute exercise as good as a 90 minute run

Short bursts of exercise lasting just 150 seconds could help protect against heart disease as much as a 90 minute run or longer but less strenuous workouts, according to new research.Intensive two minute exercise as good as a 90 minute runEvidence from a study of men aged 18 to 35 indicated brief but intense exercise was more effective at reducing blood fat levels, which can linger in the body after eating and begin the process of clogging up arteries.

In an experiment led by researcher Stuart Gray, a group of men was asked to sprint, cycle or walk for half an hour.

Those who exercised at peak levels for 30 seconds before resting for four minutes and repeating, saw the fat in their blood drop faster than those who walked at a brisk pace in line with Government guidelines.

The results showed walking cut fat by 11 per cent, compared with not doing any exercise, while short periods of exercise helped reduce fat by 33 per cent – the same effect as a 90 minute run.

Dr Gray, of Aberdeen University, told the British Science Festival that two minute workouts may be more effective in causing the liver to process more fat from the blood before storing it or burning it off.

He said that, while the high intensity training “won’t necessarily” improve strength, it does boost endurance.

He added that the short duration of the exercise was ‘highly important as time is often cited as the main barrier to taking part in exercise.”

However, he said exercising for brief period between resting meant the whole workout took 20 minutes and had to be done regularly.

Dr Gray said: “Although moderate intensity, longer sessions of exercise can help protect the body against cardiovascular disease, the findings of our study showed that higher-intensity shorter intervals of exercise might be a more effective method to improve health and reduce the time commitment to exercise.”

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Fish oil may double benefits of exercise for elderly

Eating a portion of oily fish such as salmon or mackerel three times a week could help to protect the muscles from deterioration in old age by doubling the benefits of exercise, experts claim.Fish oil may double benefits of exercise for elderlyAfter our mid thirties our body’s ability to build muscle through exercise alone begins to diminish, meaning it is difficult for older people to resist muscle wastage

A combination of regular doses of fish oil and gym exercises improved the muscular strength of a group of women in their late sixties by 20 per cent in a new study.

A control group who took part in the twice-weekly, 30-minute exercise sessions but did not take fish oil increased their muscle power by only 11 per cent.

Over the course of the 12-week study, those who took the fish oils also made noticeably larger improvements in tests of their balance, walking speed and time taken to get up from a chair.

Speaking at the British Science Festival, researchers from Aberdeen University said the difference could be down to the effects of DHA and EPA, types of Omega 3 fatty acid found in fish oil that have anti-inflammatory properties.

As a normal part of ageing, muscle size reduces by between 0.5 per cent and two per cent a year in older people, a condition known as sarcopenia.

After our mid-thirties our body’s ability to build muscle through exercise alone begins to diminish, meaning it is difficult for older people to resist muscle wastage.

Researchers said the fish oils could work by combating the low-level inflammation that is typical in older people and hampers the ability of the muscles to build power and mass.

Dr Stuart Gray said: “We’re trying to make older muscle adapt like younger muscle, and that’s where we think fish oil can come in.”

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