Healthy Hearts

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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Vitamin D supplements should be taken by everyone.

Everyone should consider taking vitamin D supplements to counter the lack of sunshine in the UK, government experts are proposing.

Everyone should consider taking vitamin D supplements to counter the lack of sunshine in the UK, government experts are proposing The draft Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition guidelines suggest, from the age of one, 10 microgram pills be taken to ensure people get enough.

Current advice is only at risk groups – including pregnant women, under fives and over 65s – should take supplements.

But as there is no easy way of assessing who is getting enough vitamin D, SACN has proposed a blanket recommendation for everyone because of the benefits it would bring.

The risk of getting too much vitamin D is considered to be extremely low.

It comes after the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), which advises the NHS on treatments, has already suggested vitamin D should be given more widely to counter a hidden epidemics of deficiency.

Official estimates suggest one in five adults and one in six children in England may have low levels.

People get most of their vitamin D from the action of sunlight on their skin. But the amount in food is small, unlike many other vitamins.

The low level of sunlight during winter months means people in the UK are at risk.

The NICE guidelines called for more free supplements and for supermarkets to sell low-cost tablets.

Deficiency can result in rickets and brittle bones.

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Health by stealth- how food manufacturers are disguising sugar

Food manufacturers are increasingly looking to make their products healthier, without consumers noticing a change in taste.

Food manufacturers are increasingly looking to make their products healthier, without consumers noticing a change in taste Under pressure to reduce levels of sugar, salt and saturated fat, manufacturers are increasingly turning to such people – selected for their heightened sense of taste – for help.

Government advisers recently suggested no more than 5% of daily calories should come from added sugar – half the level of the previous recommendation – while Tesco announced it would stop selling high-sugar drinks specifically aimed at children.

Reducing the cost of ingredients can also be a factor in companies choosing to use such laboratories.

Historically, if they wanted to take out sugar they had to use artificial sweeteners, now they have the option of using natural sweeteners too.

With something like salt, they may have reduced the levels of it a few years ago, but as our taste-buds acclimatise to less salt in our foods we can take it down a notch again.”

For Barbara Gallani, from the Food and Drink Federation, consumer demand is the greatest factor behind companies’ desire to make their products healthier.

But – perhaps surprisingly – companies are unwilling to inform the public of their products’ added nutritional benefit.

“Although ingredient changes will always be reflected in the ingredients list, it is not always desirable to actively promote them to consumers. This is because manufacturers don’t want to give the impression that they are compromising taste,” she explains.

“Maintaining consumer base and brand is very important.”

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Raspberries- why are they so good?

Raspberries- also known as Rubus idaeus, they belong to the same botanical family as the rose and the blackberry.

Raspberries- also known as Rubus idaeus, they belong to the same botanical family as the rose and the blackberry

Raspberries contain more vitamin C than oranges, are super high in fibre, low in calories and supply you with a good dose of folic acid.

Further to that, they are high in potassium, vitamin A and calcium. Who would have thought that you could find so much goodness in one humble berry?

They are thought to help pregnant women- it has been suggested that drinking raspberry leaf tea shortens the second stage of labour.

Scotland is famous for its raspberry growing. In the late 1950s, raspberries were brought down from Scotland to London on a steam train known as the Raspberry Special.

Raspberries are thought to been eaten since prehistoric times, but only began to be cultivated in England and France in about the 1600s.

They come in all sorts of colours- but raspberries can be red, purple, gold or black in colour. The gold ones are the sweetest variety, and very tasty.

To form new species, raspberries have been crossed with other berries. The loganberry is a cross between raspberries and blackberries; the boysenberry is a cross between red raspberries, blackberries and loganberries; the nessberry is a cross between a dewberry, raspberry and a blackberry.

Raspberries are deeply symbolic. In some kinds of Christian art, the raspberry is the symbol for kindness. The red juice was thought of as the blood running through the heart, where kindness originates.

In the Philippines, if you hang a raspberry cane from the outside of your house, evil spirits are supposed to be deterred.

In Germany, too, raspberry canes would be tied to the horse’s body in the belief that it would calm them down. So much power in one gentle cane!

They don’t continue to ripen when picked. Unlike many fruits, unripe raspberries do not ripen after they have been picked. There’s no softening up in the fruit bowl for the raspberry – once it’s picked, that’s your lot.

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Call for better regulation of caffeine diet pills

Caffeine supplements labelled as diet pills should be better regulated according to the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.

Caffeine supplements branded as diet pills should be better regulated according to the Royal Pharmaceutical Society

It follows the death of Chris Wilcock from Darwen, Lancashire, who died on the day that he took the tablets- which were the equivalent to 300 cups of coffee.

A coroner ruled his death in April was due to caffeine toxicity. At least four deaths in the UK have been linked to caffeine pills in the past year.

Neal Patel, from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said regulation was a “problem”.

“Unfortunately it does seem to fall between the Food Standards Agency and the medicine agencies and, in fact, it tends to be left to Trading Standards locally to pick out the products and see what’s in them.

“That doesn’t seem good enough given the number of deaths we’ve seen this year.”

Mr Patel added: “There is really flimsy evidence at best that caffeine can help reduce weight.”

Mr Wilcock, who was a pub landlord, died after taking a supplement known as T5, which contained caffeine equivalent to 300 cups of coffee.

T5 is a generic name for products that are often marketed as slimming aids. They are classified as food supplements instead of medicines, are legal and widely available.

Mr Wilcock’s fiancée Heather Thompson said she “tried to talk him out of” taking the pills.

“He just got told to take one a day and avoid alcohol with them – that was it. He didn’t get told of the side effects, he didn’t get told anything. It didn’t even say it on the actual bottle.”

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society said caffeine overdose could lead to symptoms including palpitations, high blood pressure, nausea and vomiting, convulsions and, in some cases, death.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency added: “There is a variety of different ingredients used in the various products with high levels of caffeine being one of the most popular ingredients.

“Such products are typically regarded to be food supplements rather than medicines. In instances where slimming products contain ingredients that are regarded to be medicinal the MHRA will investigate whether there is a breach of human medicines regulations and take action accordingly.”

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Coffee is good for your heart

Drinking a few cups of coffee a day may help people avoid clogged arteries – a heart disease risk factor.

Drinking a few cups of coffee a day may help people avoid clogged arteries - a heart disease risk factor.Researchers studied more than 25,000 male and female employees who underwent routine health checks at their workplace.

Employees who drank a moderate amount of coffee – three to five cups a day – were less likely to have early signs of heart disease on their medical scans.

The findings reopen the debate about whether coffee is good for the heart.

There is a lot of confusion when it comes to the effect of coffee on heart health- as some studies have linked consumption to heart risk factors, such as raised cholesterol or blood pressure, while others suggest the beverage may offer some heart protection.

But there is no conclusive evidence either way, and the latest research from South Korea, which is published in the journal Heart, only adds to the discussion.

In the study, the researchers used medical scans to assess heart health. Specifically, they were looking for any disease of the arteries supplying the heart – the coronary arteries.

In coronary heart disease, the coronary arteries become clogged by the gradual build-up of fatty material within their walls.

The scan the researchers used looks for tiny deposits of calcium in the walls of the coronary arteries to provide an early clue that this disease process may be occurring.

None of the employees included in the Korean study had outward signs of heart disease, but more than one in 10 of them were found to have visible calcium deposits on their scans.

The researchers then compared the scan results with the employees’ self-reported daily coffee consumption, while taking into account other potential heart risk factors such as smoking, exercise and family history of heart problems.

People who drank a few cups of coffee a day were less likely to have calcium deposits in their coronary arteries than people who drank more than this or no coffee at all.

The study authors say more research is needed to confirm and explain the link.

Coffee contains the stimulant caffeine, as well as numerous other compounds, but it’s not clear if these might cause good or harm to the body.

So how much caffiene should one drink?

In the US, experts say up to 400mg a day appears to be safe for most healthy adults. There is no recommended daily upper limit for caffeine consumption in the UK, except for pregnant women. If you’re pregnant, you should limit the amount of caffeine you have to 200mg a day – equivalent to two mugs of instant coffee.

Caffiene per serving:
  • one mug of instant coffee: 100mg
  • one mug of filter coffee: 140mg
  • one mug of tea: 75mg
  • one can of cola: 40mg
  • an espresso contains about 50mg of caffeine However, please note- coffee shop caffeine levels can vary widely.
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Sugar worse than salt claim health experts

Health experts claim avoiding sugar could be more important than avoiding salt when it comes to your healthy heart.

Sugar worse than salt claim health expertsScientists have clashed over claims that sugar may be worse for blood pressure and heart health than salt.

US experts say people need to place a greater focus on cutting sugar intake and suggest the benefits of lowering salt levels are “debatable.” Their arguments are published in the journal Open Heart.

But other researchers have said the claims are “disingenuous” and “scientifically unnecessary”. They maintain both need to be reduced.

Researchers from St Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute, and Montefiore Medical Centre in the USA reviewed a selection of evidence from basic science experiments, animal studies and human research.

They came to the conclusion that sugar – particularly fructose – may play a stronger role in high blood pressure and other cardiac conditions than salt.

And they say lowering salt consumption under certain levels may do more harm than good as the research team suggests attempts to reduce salt in processed food may drive people to eat more.

The US experts focus on a particular type of sugar – added fructose – often found in processed foods and sugary beverages.

But they say naturally occurring sugars in whole foods, for example those in fruit and vegetables, are not a cause for concern.

Data from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey in England suggests most adults and children eat more sugar than recommended.

The World Health Organization recommends sugars should make up less than 10% of total energy intake per day – this works out at about a maximum of 50g (1.7oz) of sugar for the average adult.

But the global health body recently acknowledged that halving this, to 5% of total energy intake per day, would have additional benefits.

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Body clocks- peak “rush hours” discovered

A pair of “rush hours” every day rapidly change the way tissues throughout the body work, scientists have discovered.

Body clocks- peak rush hours discoveredThe animal study, in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, monitored the function of cells, in 12 tissues, through the day.

It found large shifts in activity just before dawn and dusk.

Experts said the findings could help time medication to hit sweet-spots in the body clock.

The body’s internal clock is known to drive huge changes – it alters alertness, mood, physical strength and even the risk of a heart attack in a daily rhythm.

A team at the University of Pennsylvania investigated the impact of the time of day on the way DNA functions in experiments on mice.

Every two hours they looked at samples from the kidney, liver, lung, adrenal gland, aorta, brainstem, cerebellum, brown fat, white fat, heart, hypothalamus, lung and skeletal muscle.

They showed that 43% of genes, sections of DNA, involved in protein manufacture altered their activity throughout the day.

Different genes had different activity patterns in different tissues so the research team conservatively estimate that more than half of genes would show daily fluctuations if every tissues type was sampled.

The liver was the most dynamic with 3,186 genes showing a daily pattern compared with just 642 in the hypothalamus.

It is already known that some drugs work better at certain times of the day.

Heart disease is driven by artery-clogging cholesterol, which is mostly made in the liver at night. Taking statins in the evening makes them more effective.

The researchers said 56 of the top 100 selling drugs and nearly half of the World Health Organization’s list of essential medicines acted on genes which were now known to have this daily oscillations.

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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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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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