Poor Diets

Superbug risk from undercooked meat

Superbugs may be passed on to people by eating undercooked meat, a government report has warned.Superbugs may be passed on to people by eating undercooked meat, a government report has warned.

 

Antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria can lurk in the meat we eat because of excessive use of antibiotics for farming, according to the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance.

If we eat it raw or undercooked, there is a risk – albeit small – that we might catch these hard-to-treat infections and become ill.

Bacteria are constantly evolving and can learn how to dodge the drugs we use.

Over-reliance on antibiotic drugs in any setting can lead to resistance. Regular use of antibiotics in food animals creates the ideal conditions for the emergence of resistant bacteria.

Weak, susceptible bacteria die off, while the antibiotic-resistant bacteria thrive.

 

Humans can catch these bacteria if they come into close contact with the animals – farmers, for example – or if they eat the infected meat.

While most cases of food poisoning, although unpleasant, do not need treatment, some people may need to take antibiotics. And if the bacteria responsible are already resistant to these drugs then it makes treating the infection difficult. How can I check the meat I eat is safe?

If you eat meat, the safest way to consume it is well cooked – steaming hot all the way through and any juices run clear. This kills any bacteria that might be present.

Health Direct says it is safe to serve steak and other whole cuts of beef and lamb rare (not cooked in the middle) or blue (seared on the outside) as long as they have been properly sealed (cooked quickly at a high temperature on the outside only) to kill any bacteria on the meat’s surface.

The report in the Lancet Infectious Diseases showed resistance in a fifth of animals tested, 15% of raw meat samples and in 16 patients. Can we stop the use?

In the UK, nearly half of all antibiotics used are in farming. We cannot stop all antibiotic use in food animals. The drugs are useful for reducing animal disease and suffering. But experts say there is massive scope for curbing their use.

Denmark remains one of the biggest exporters of pork in the world but has greatly reduced its levels of antibiotic use in livestock.

As well as reducing the quantity of use, more restrictions are needed on the types of antibiotics used in animals, the government report says.

Countries need to come together and agree to restrict or even ban the use in animals of antibiotics that are important for humans, it adds.

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Coffee has secret trick to stop sleep

A cup of coffee in the evening may be keeping you awake for more reasons than you realise.

A cup of coffee in the evening may be keeping you awake for more reasons than you realise.

Their study, in Science Translation Medicine, showed caffeine was more than just a stimulant and actually slowed down the body’s internal clock.

A double espresso three hours before bedtime delayed the production of the sleep hormone melatonin by about 40 minutes, making it harder to nod off.

Experts said our own actions had a huge influence on sleep and the body clock.

One of the researchers, Dr John O’Neill, from the Medical Research Council’s Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, said “If you’re tired and having a coffee at night to stay awake, then that is a bad idea, you’ll find it harder to go to sleep and get enough sleep.”

In his half of the study, cells grown in a dish were exposed to caffeine to work out how it changed their ability to keep time.

It showed the drug was able to alter the chemical clocks ticking away in every cell of the human body.

Meanwhile, five people at the University of Colorado Boulder, in the US, were locked in a sleep laboratory for 50 days.

And as light exposure is the main way we normally control our body clock, they spent most of their incarceration in very dim light.

In a series of experiments over the month and a half, the scientists showed that an evening dose of caffeine slowed the body clock by 40 minutes.

It had roughly half the impact of three hours of bright light at bedtime.

Dr O’Neill said it would be “complete speculation” to set a cut-off time for drinking caffeine in the evening but he personally never drank coffee after 17:00.

He said the findings may help treat some sleep disorders and people who naturally woke up too early – known as larks – to help keep them in sync with the rest of the world.

“It could be useful with jet lag if you are flying east to west where taking caffeine at the right time of day might speed up the time it takes to overcome jet lag,” he added.

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Fasting may increase life span

Extreme fasting and calorie counting boosts lifespan in monkeys, according to new published research.

Fasting may increase life spanUntil now, the rationale for following an ultra-low calorie diet to ward off ageing has been based on experiments in worms and mice but now studies reported in Nature Communications found that primates also benefited from the regime.

Advocates of the Calorie Restriction (CR) diet claim that by severely restricting the number of calories they consume they will live longer, perhaps into their hundreds.

They cite a wealth of scientific evidence dating back more than 75 years.

Much of the research is based on experiments in animals such as mice and worms, with primate studies giving conflicting results. Now, a US team has published new evidence showing CR also shows benefits in primates.

“CR works to delay ageing in primate species,” Dr Rozalyn Anderson of the department of medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told BBC News. “Our study data is consistent with that.”

The study found CR boosted survival in a group of rhesus monkeys studied over the course of decades.

And she said conflicting findings, from a previous study at a different institute, might be due to flaws in the control group. But she said CR was a research tool not a lifestyle recommendation.

“The concept is to delve into the biology of ageing and try to understand what’s the basis for increased risk for diseases as you get older and with advanced age,” she said. “It would be very difficult to implement CR in a long term way in humans.”

A US study is currently looking at whether healthy humans live longer on less food.

The participants restrict calories by 25% over several years, existing mainly on a diet of vegetables, fruits (especially apples), and soups.

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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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Smoking may worsen a hangover US research concludes

Smoking may worsen a hangover after drinking heavily US research concludes-  although the reason why is unclear.Smoking may worsen a hangover US research concludesResearchers asked 113 US students to keep a diary for eight weeks, recording their drinking and smoking habits and any hangover symptoms.

When they drank heavily- around six cans of beer an hour – those who also smoked suffered a worse hangover.

Addiction charities hope this study may motivate smokers to cut down over the festive season.

The study’s findings are reported in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

One of the paper’s authors, Dr Damaris Rohsenow, from the Centre for Alcohol and Addiction Studies at Brown University said: “At the same number of drinks, people who smoke more that day are more likely to have a hangover and have more intense hangovers.”

“And smoking itself was linked to an increased risk of hangover compared with not smoking at all.  That raises the likelihood that there is some direct effect of tobacco smoking on hangovers.”

The students from a Midwestern university in the US reported on the number of drinks consumed, number of cigarettes smoked and their hangover symptoms – which included if they felt more tired than usual, had a headache, felt nauseated and had difficulty concentrating.

The researchers then estimated blood alcohol concentration (BAC) which helped control for differences between sexes as it took into account weight and the period over which the student drank alcohol.

After analysing the results, the researchers found that smoking more heavily the day before increased the presence and severity of hangover the next day – but only after a heavy drinking episode, estimated at a BAC of 110mg/dl or greater – the equivalent of around six cans of beer an hour.

The reasons why are unclear- but the study suggests it may down to the toxicological and pharmacological effects of nicotine on the nervous system.

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Unhealthy lifestyles increases liver disease damage- CMO

High levels of drinking and obesity mean England is one of the few places in Europe seeing a major preventable disease getting worse warns the Chief Medical oOficer.Unhealthy lifestyles increases liver disease damage- CMOProf Dame Sally Davies highlighted the rise in liver-disease deaths in the under-65s – up 20% in a decade – in her annual report.

In comparison, most of the rest of Europe has seen rates fall.

She said urgent action was needed to discourage harmful lifestyles.

She said three of the major causes of liver disease – obesity, alcohol abuse and undiagnosed hepatitis infection – were all preventable.

But despite that, premature deaths from liver disease in the under-65s had jumped by a fifth since 2000 to 10 per 100,000 people.

Her study – the first volume of a Annual Report of the Chief Medical Officer – focused on a whole host of diseases from cancer to dementia.

But Dame Sally said it was the liver disease figures that most shocked her the most – and showed there needed to be investment in prevention, early diagnosis and effective treatment.

“I was struck by the data on liver disease particularly,” she said.

“This is the only major cause of preventative death that is on the increase in England that is generally falling in other comparable European nations.  We must act to change this.”

The report comes after the government said earlier this year it would look to introduce a minimum price for alcohol. A consultation is expected to start soon.

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Just one daily fizzy drink linked to higher prostate cancer risk

Drinking just one fizzy drink a day could increase a man’s chance of developing prostate cancer by around 40 per cent, research suggests.Just one daily fizzy drink linked to higher prostate cancer riskMen who consumed 300ml of a sugary soft drink a day appeared to raise their odds of succumbing to faster growing forms of the disease, according to a 15 year study.

The sugar in the drinks is believed to release insulin, which feeds tumours.

The study, carried out by Swedish scientists and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, tracked the health of more than 8,000 men aged 45 to 73 for an average of 15 years.

All were in good health when the study began, and were asked about what they liked to eat and drink.

Those who drank more sugary drinks were more likely to have been diagnosed with prostate cancer by the end of the study.

Isabel Drake, a researcher at Lund University, said: “Among the men who drank a lot of soft drinks, we saw an increased risk of prostate cancer of around 40 per cent.”

Large amounts of rice, pasta, cakes, biscuits and sugary breakfast cereals were also linked with a less serious form of the disease.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men and about 36,000 are diagnosed with the disease in the UK each year. It accounts for a quarter of all newly diagnosed cases of cancer in men but most cases develop in those aged 70 or older.

The scientists who carried out the study said that while genetics were more important in determining the likelihood of developing prostate cancer than was the case with many other cancers, diet did seem to be important.

More research was needed to confirm the link with fizzy drinks but there were already “plenty of reasons” to cut back on them, they said.

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Red wine could help you lose weight

Drinking red wine could help you lose weight by suppressing your appetite and preventing you from overeating according to new research.Red wine could help you lose weightResearchers found that when bees were fed resveratrol, a compound found in red wine, they ate less food afterwards.

While bees normally gorge themselves on sugary foods when they are freely available, those which had been fed resveratrol chose to stop eating once they had taken on enough to meet their energy needs.

They also became uninterested in diluted sugar solutions, suggesting they had become less sensitive to it, the scientists reported in the Aging journal.

Previous studies have indicated that resveratrol could also combat obesity by mimicing the effects of a low fat diet, and help prevent the onset of age-related disease.

Gro Amdam, one of the study’s authors from the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, said: “Because what we eat is such an important contributor to our physical health, we looked at the bees’ sensitivity to sugar and their willingness to consume it.

“Bees typically gorge on sugar and while it’s the best thing for them, we know that eating too much is not necessarily a good thing.”

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Only one in six baby boomers retiring in good health

Only one in six ‘baby boomers’ is retiring in good health- with most succumbing to a range of conditions and diseases including high cholesterol, osteoporosis or cancer.Only one in six baby boomers retiring in good healthEven though today’s 60-somethings have benefited from the NHS and welfare state pretty much from birth, most still have at least one health problem, say Government scientists.

They found the average baby boomer – referring to those born in the years just after the Second World War – has two medical conditions.

Just over half have high blood pressure, a third are obese, and a quarter have high cholesterol.

A quarter have Type 2 diabetes or ‘pre-diabetes’, meaning they are on the cusp of fully developing the condition.

Almost one in five suffer from a mental health problem, while 12 per cent have chronic lung or throat disease.

Eleven per cent have cancer, the same proportion that has osteoporosis. In addition, 11 per cent have suffered from cardiovascular disease such as a heart attack, stroke or heart failure.

One in six have three or more health problems.

The results are from a study of 2,661 people born in 1946, from every walk of life, whose health has been followed from birth. For this, the latest study, they were assessed between 60 and 64 years of age for 15 conditions.

The study found the origins of poor health in one’s 60s could usually be traced back to early middle age.

Dr Mary Pierce, of the MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing, the GP who led the report Clinical Disorders in a Post War British Cohort Reaching Retirement: Evidence from the First National Birth Cohort Study said: “The babies born in the post-war period were the first generation to enjoy the lifelong benefits of the NHS and the welfare state, and have an extended life expectancy.”

Writing in the report, published in the journal PLoS One, she warned: “The health of the baby boomers as they age will dominate the work of the health and social care systems for the next three decade.”

“We might, therefore, expect this generation to be in pretty good health at retirement age.  But our research shows that medical conditions – some of which could lead to serious disability or even death ­– are common among baby boomers.”

Professor Diana Kuh, director of the unit, said some of the conditions shared “common root causes related to poor diet and inactive lifestyles”.

They argued GPs would become more and more stretched as the baby boomer generation aged, with Dr Pierce saying it made “a compelling case to invest in primary care to ease the burden on an already stretched service”.

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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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