High Fat Diets

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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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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Eating chips in pregnancy can cause underweight babies

Eating chips during pregnancy can lead to significant health problems for new born babies new research suggests.Eating chips in pregnancy can cause underweight babiesConsuming a vast quantity of chips, crisps and biscuits during pregnancy can lead to babies having a lower than average birth weight, the study found.

Mothers-to-be who have a high intake of acrylamide – which is found in commonly consumed foods and coffee – are also more likely to have a baby which has a smaller head circumference.

The size of a child’s head has been associated with delayed neurodevelopment while lower birth weights have been associated with adverse health effects in early life and as children grow up.

Babies born to mothers with a high dietary intake of acrylamide were found to be up to 132 grams lighter than babies born to mothers who had a low intake, researchers said.

The mean birth weight among children who were exposed to the highest levels of acrylamide compared with children in the lowest was around 100 grams, the authors said.

The effect caused by acrylamide is comparable to lower birth weights caused by maternal smoking, they said.

The infant’s heads were also up to 0.33 centimetres smaller, they found.

Acrylamide is a chemical which is produced naturally in food as a result of cooking starch-rich food at high temperatures, such as when baking or frying. It has been found in a wide range of home-cooked and processed foods including crisps, chips, bread and coffee.

“The potential public-health implications of our findings are substantial,” the authors said.

“Reduced birth weight is a risk factor for numerous adverse health effects early in life, and has been associated with multiple adverse outcomes later in life such as reduced stature, increased incidence of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and osteoporosis.”

They added: “These findings provide evidence supporting the need for changes in food production and for providing clear public health advice to pregnant women to reduce their dietary intake of foods that may contain high concentrations of acrylamide.”

Researchers examined the diets of 1,100 pregnant women between 2006 and 2010 in Denmark, England, Greece, Norway and Spain.

The study A comparative analysis of dietary intakes during pregnancy in Europe , led by the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology (CREAL) in Barcelona, involved 20 research centres across Europe including the Born in Bradford research programme.

Dr Laura Hardie, reader in molecular epidemiology at the University of Leeds, said: “186 women from the Born in Bradford study took part in this major European research programme. We found that their babies had the highest levels of acrylamide out of all of the five centres, almost twice the level of the Danish babies.

“When we investigated their diet it was clear that the largest source of dietary acrylamide is from chips.”

CREAL researcher and lead author Dr Marie Pedersen, added: “The public-health implications of the findings in this study are substantial.

“Reduced birth weight, in particular low birth weight, has been shown to be related to numerous adverse health effects early or later in life such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Furthermore, reduced birth head circumference has been associated with delayed neurodevelopment.”

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Does a high fat diet damage your brain?

Eating a high fat diet can impair the function of the part of the brain that controls appetite and energy expenditure which in turn dictates our weight.Does a high fat diet damage your brain?That is the finding presented at the British Science Festival by scientists at the University of Aberdeen Rowett Institute for Nutrition and Health.

This may help explain why overweight people struggle to lose weight and then struggle to maintain their weight loss.

Researchers fed mice a diet high in saturated fat and sugar over 16 weeks – where 60% of their energy came from saturated fat – and compared them with mice fed a normal diet over the same period.

Using techniques such as transcriptomics and proteomics, scientists then studied genes and proteins in the hypothalamus of their brain – the part that regulates eating and energy expenditure.

They found that mice fed a high fat diet had changes to genes and proteins indicative of damage in the hypothalamus and that these changes occurred very rapidly – within weeks.

Dr Lynda Williams, Obesity and Metabolic Health Group Leader, at the Rowett, said: “The hypothalamus is a small area at the base of the brain containing neurones that control the amount of food we eat and the energy we expend.

“However this control breaks down in obesity – the system appears not to work – and we don’t really know why this happens. In our study we found that genes and proteins changed in response to a high fat diet and that these changes are normally associated with damage in the brain, indicating that damage had occurred in the hypothalamus in mice that ate a diet high in saturated fat.

“We instinctively know that eating a diet high in saturated fat and sugar will lead to overweight and obesity. Our results indicate that a high fat diet can damage the areas of the brain that control energy balance and perpetuate the development of obesity. High fat and high sugar foods are energy dense foods which are highly palatable and they are very easy to overeat.”

“Our findings may also explain why some overweight people find it difficult to diet and why weight loss after dieting is so difficult to maintain. We now plan to carry out further studies that will look at whether these effects are reversible.”

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Obese children are more likely to have heart attacks or strokes

Researchers say obese children with high BMIs may already have up to 40% higher chance of heart disease.Obese children are more likely to have heart attacks or strokesObese children have a far higher risk of having a stroke or heart attack when they grow up than peers who have a normal weight, according to new research.

Children who are dangerously overweight may already have a 30%-40% higher chance of either suffering a stroke or developing heart disease in later life, Oxford University researchers found.

They end up with a range of risk factors for either disease, such as a thickening of the heart muscle known as left ventricular mass, which is often a sign of emerging heart disease.

“Weight, and especially obesity, has a significant effect on the risk parameters for cardiovascular disease that are present in children from age five years”, say the six academics in a paper published online in the British Medical Journal. “This effect could give them a head start on their normal and even overweight classmates for future cardiovascular disease, diabetes and stroke”, they conclude.

The findings are the latest graphic illustration of the medical problems associated with the sharp rise in childhood obesity in recent years. They prompted calls for GPs and practice nurses to measure children’s Body Mass Index (BMI) levels so that those who are worryingly heavy can be helped.

It is already known that obese adults are more likely to have a stroke or heart attack. The Oxford researchers sought to measure the extent of the same association for children with a BMI of at least 30. They analysed 63 previous studies published between 2000 and 2011, which examined key health indicators among 49,220 children aged between five and 15 in a number of highly developed countries.

They found that both obese and overweight children had “significantly higher” blood pressure and cholesterol levels than classmates who were of a healthy weight, especially those whose BMI was 30 or more.

Obese pupils also had much higher fasting insulin levels and insulin resistance, which often indicate diabetes, which is closely associated with obesity.

“Having a body mass index outside the normal range significantly worsens risk parameters for cardiovascular disease in school-aged children. This effect, already substantial in overweight children, increases in obesity and could be large than previously thought”, say the authors, who include Matthew Thompson, a GP.

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Dieting- it’s all in the timing

Sticking to strict meal times every day is good for the metabolism and helps the body burn off fat according to new research.Dieting- it's all in the timingPeople who snack on healthy food may consume only a small amount of fat- however their haphazard eating patterns mean they can put on weight, a new reserach study suggests.

In contrast, sticking to strict meal times is good for the metabolism and helps the body burn off fat- allowing a more liberal choice of food.

The findings indicate that adopting a fixed timetable for meals could be a more effective method of dieting than trying to cut out fatty foods and might help prevent obesity, researchers said.

Previous studies have shown that both a high fat diet and eating patterns that disrupt the natural body clock can interfere with our metabolism and raise the risk of obesity.

Scientists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem tested the effects of timing and fat intake on four groups of mice over an 18-week period to determine whether careful scheduling of meals could lower the effects of a high-fat diet.

Half were given a high-fat diet that would normally be expected to make them obese. Of these, a quarter were fed at the same time each day and another quarter could eat as much as they liked, whenever they liked.

The other half were fed a diet that was lower in fat. Again, one quarter had a fixed feeding time, the other had not.

All four of the groups gained weight over the course of the trial, with the group that ate a high-fat diet at irregular intervals unsurprisingly gaining the most weight, while those on a low-fat, scheduled diet gained the least.

But more surprisingly, the mice that had been fed a high-fat diet at regular intervals finished the trial in a better condition than those that ate low fat foods whenever they wanted, despite both groups consuming the same number of calories overall.

The mice in the scheduled, high fat group had 12 per cent lower body weight, 21 per cent lower cholesterol and 1.4 times higher sensitivity to insulin than the unscheduled, low-fat group.

The diet also changed their metabolism so that they burnt off the fats they ingested to produce energy in between meal times, rather than storing the fat in their bodies.

The study was published in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.

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New York bans large sugary drinks

New York City’s health board has passed a law prohibiting the sale of sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces- an act which Mayor Michael Bloomberg says will save lives by reducing obesity.New York bans large sugary drinksNew York City passed the first US ban of oversized sugary drinks in its latest controversial step to reduce obesity and its deadly complications in a nation with a weight problem.

The mayoral appointed city health board outlawed sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces (one pint) nearly everywhere they are sold, except grocery and convenience stores.

Violators of the ban, which does not include diet sodas, face a $200 (£125) fine.

At a news conference at City Hall, Bloomberg heralded the measure’s passage as “the single biggest step any city I think has ever taken to curb obesity.

“We believe that it will help save lives,” he added.

About one third of Americans are obese, and about 10 per cent of the nation’s healthcare bill is tied to obesity related diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and hypertension, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development .

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Supermarkets’ luxury ranges contain twice as much fat, salt and sugar as budget versions

Supermarkets’ ‘luxury’ ranges of ready meals can contain more than twice as much fat and salt than the budget, ‘no-frills’ versions, according to a new academic research.Supermarkets' luxury ranges contain twice as much fat, salt and sugar as budget versionsGlasgow University academics said some of the meals should be labelled “damaging” on their packaging after discovering that they contained “shocking” levels of saturated fat, the major cause of heart disease.

After analysing a range of convenience foods produced by five of Britain’s largest supermarket chains, they found the ‘finest’ ranges of ready meals regularly contained up to 100 per cent of fat that should be consumed by an adult in an entire day.

The study, published in Trends in Food Science & Technology, also discovered one serving of a luxury meal contains up to half the guideline daily amount (GDA) of salt.

Mike Lean, chair of human nutrition at the university, said: “Labelling food as ‘extra special’ or ‘finest’ can be misleading for consumers who might expect health benefits at a higher price point.

The study found Sainsbury’s ‘taste the difference’ beef lasagne contains more than twice the saturated fat (77 per cent GDA) than its ‘basics’ version (36 per cent GDA).

It also contained more salt, with the luxury version accounting for 34.5 per cent of GDA compared to 28.8 per cent for the no-frills version.

Similarly, the supermarket’s ‘taste the difference’ shepherd’s pie contained 52.5 per cent of an adult’s recommended daily saturated fat compared to 22 per cent in one from the ‘basics’ range.

Tesco’s ‘finest’ cottage pie ready meals contained 39 per cent of GDA saturated fat compared with 18 per cent for the equivalent dish in the supermarket’s ‘value’ range. There was also twice as much salt, 52 per cent of GDA compared to 25 per cent.

The academics also found that Tesco’s ‘finest’ chicken masala contained far more saturated fat (68 per cent) than the value version (41 per cent).

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