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Sugar- the new killer substance

January 09, 2014 By: Dr Search- Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: diabetes, Diets, Health, Health Direct, NHS Deaths, Obesity, Preventable Crisis, Uncategorized, weight loss

A campaign group has been formed to reduce the amount of sugar added to food and soft drinks in an effort to tackle obesity and diabetes in the UK.
Sugar- the new killer substanceAction on Sugar has been set up by the team behind Consensus Action on Salt and Health (Cash), which has pushed for cuts to salt intake since the 1990s.

The new group aims to help people avoid “hidden sugars” and get manufacturers to reduce the ingredient over time.

Sugar is a widespread presence in our food and it’s often found in unexpected places, for example a can of cola contains nine teaspoons of sugar.  Some tins of tomato soup and bottles of flavoured water have four teaspoons of sugar crammed inside. And seemingly healthy fat free yoghurt often has a high sugar content.

The primary concern is obesity- being high in sugar also means being high in calories.

Nearly two thirds of people in the UK are overweight or obese – leading to other health problems such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Some argue that the problems with sugar are even deeper than the calorie content, and that high doses of the sweet stuff can increase the risk of diseases such as a fatty liver.

The cmapaigners believe that a 20% to 30% reduction in three to five years is within reach.

Like Cash, Action on Sugar will set targets for the food industry to add less sugar bit by bit so that consumers do not notice the difference in taste.

It says the reduction could reverse or halt the obesity epidemic and would have a significant impact in reducing chronic disease in a way that “is practical, will work and will cost very little”.

The group listed flavoured water, sports drinks, yoghurts, ketchup, ready meals and even bread as just a few everyday foods that contain large amounts of sugar.

Action on Sugar chairman Graham MacGregor, who is professor of cardiovascular medicine at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine and set up Cash in 1996, said: “We must now tackle the obesity epidemic both in the UK and worldwide.

“This is a simple plan which gives a level playing field to the food industry, and must be adopted by the Department of Health to reduce the completely unnecessary and very large amounts of sugar the food and soft drink industry is currently adding to our foods.”

Well known food and drink products and their sugar content:

  •     Starbucks caramel frappuccino with whipped cream with skimmed milk (tall): 273kcal; 11 teaspoons of sugar
  •     Coca Cola Original (330ml): 139kcal; 9 teaspoons of sugar
  •     Muller Crunch Corner Strawberry Shortcakre Yogurt (135g): 212kcal; 6 teaspoons of sugar
  •     Yeo Valley Family Farm 0% Fat Vanilla Yogurt (150g): 120kcal; 5 teaspoons of sugar
  •     Kellogg’s Frosties with semi-skimmed milk (30g): 4 teaspoons of sugar
  •     Glaceau Vitamin Water, Defence (500ml): 4 teaspoons of sugar
  •     Heinz Classic Tomato Soup (300g): 171kcals; 4 teaspoons of sugar
  •     Ragu Tomato & Basil Pasta Sauce (200g): 80kcals; 3 teaspoons of sugar
  •     Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Crunchy Oat Granola Cinnamon Bars (40g): 186kcal; 2 teaspoons of sugar
  •     Heinz Tomato Ketchup (15ml): 18kcal; 1 teaspoon of sugar

Source: Action on Sugar

Dr Aseem Malhotra, a cardiologist and science director of Action on Sugar, said: “Added sugar has no nutritional value whatsoever and causes no feeling of satiety.  Aside from being a major cause of obesity, there is increasing evidence that added sugar increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and fatty liver.”

Obese women restricted in NHS IVF treatments

May 16, 2013 By: Dr Search- Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Doctors, Health, IVF, maternity, NHS Cash Shortages, NHS Targets, Obesity, Pregnancy, Sexual Health, smokers, Uncategorized, weight loss

New NHS IVF treatment rules have been drawn up in Scotland.
Obese women restricted in NHS IVF treatmentsCouples who need help conceiving will be guaranteed two free infertility treatments from 1 July, however the treatments will only be available to those under 40, and it will not be offered to women who are obese.

In addition, couples need to have been in a stable relationship for two years and neither partner can smoke for three months before treatment begins.

Both partners also need to be methadone-free for a year before IVF starts

If either partner smokes they will need to have stopped before treatment is commenced

Women aged between 40 and 42 will be eligible for one cycle of fertility treatment if they have never previously undergone the procedure.

The new IVF criteria has been approved by the Scottish government.

The guarantees came as the National Infertility Group published a report with recommendations on new criteria.

The eligibility criteria for free fertility treatment in Scotland currently includes a female age limit of 39; the patient must not already have a child living at home; and they must have had less than three previous funded embryo transfers.

Scotland’s Public Health Minister Michael Matheson said the government was committed to “providing fair, reliable and faster access to IVF treatment”.

He insisted that it was important to end the different approaches across the country and to offer “equity”.

“We are investing £12 million over three years to help drive down waiting times for IVF treatments, and waiting times are already reducing in a number of NHS board areas.

“We also have to be responsible about the effects of smoking and obesity on pregnancy and beyond. Smoking not only reduces the effectiveness of IVF, but also doubles the risk of pregnancy loss.

“NHS boards will offer patients the support needed to make the lifestyle changes demanded of the new criteria.

“The safety of mother and baby is of utmost importance and the recommendations will ensure healthier outcomes for both families and babies born as a result of IVF treatment.”

Waist to height ratio better than BMI for weight test

May 13, 2013 By: Dr Search- Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Diets, Doctors, Health, Health Professionals, NHS Deaths, Uncategorized, weight loss, Wellbeing

Your waist should be no more than half the length of your height- according to experts who claim that having too large a trouser size can dramatically shorten your lifespan.Waist to height ratio better than BMI for weight testMeasuring the ratio of someone’s waist to their height is a better way of predicting their life expectancy than body mass index (BMI), the method widely used by doctors when judging overall health and risk of disease, researchers said.

BMI is calculated as a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of their height in metres, but a study found that the simpler measurement of waistline against height produced a more accurate prediction of lifespan.

People with the highest waist-to-height ratio, whose waistlines measured 80 per cent of their height, lived 17 years fewer than average.

Keeping your waist circumference to less than half of your height can help prevent the onset of conditions like stroke, heart disease and diabetes and add years to life, researchers said.

For a 6ft man, this would mean having a waistline smaller than 36in, while a 5ft 4in woman should have a waist size no larger than 32in.

Children in particular could be screened as early as five using the waist-to-height ratio to identify those at greatest risk of obesity and serious health conditions later in life, it was claimed.

Researchers from Oxford Brookes University examined data on patients whose BMI and waist to height ratio were measured in the 1980s.

Twenty years later, death rates among the group were much more closely linked to participants’ earlier waist-to-height ratio than their BMI, suggesting it is a more useful tool for identifying health risks at an early stage.

By comparing the life expectancies of various groups of people at different waist-to-height ratios, they were able to calculate how many years of life were lost as people’s waistlines increased.

For example, a man aged 30 with a waist-to-height ratio of 0.8, representing the largest one in 500 men, stood to lose 16.7 years of life due to their size.

A 50-year-old woman with the same ratio, accounting for about one in 150 women of the same age, would lose 8.2 years of life on average.

Dr Margaret Ashwell, whose previous research has suggested that the waist-to-height ratio could be a better tool than BMI for predicting a range of diseases, presented her findings at the European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool.

She said: “If you are measuring waist-to-height ratio you are getting a much earlier prection that something is going wrong, and then you can do something about it.

“The beauty is that you can do it in centimetres or inches, it doesn’t matter. We have got increasing evidence that this works very well with children as well, because whilst they grow up their waist is growing but also their height.”

New food labelling system to start in summer

February 26, 2013 By: Dr Search- Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Conservatives, diabetes, Diets, Health, Health Direct, Healthcare, Obesity, Uncategorized, weight loss

A new consistent system of front of pack food labelling will be introduced in the summer the UK government has announced.New food labelling system to start in summerThe new food labelling system is a combination of guideline daily amounts, colour coding and “high, medium or low” wording will be used to show how much fat, salt and sugar and how many calories are in each product.

The scheme will be voluntary, but ministers are confident they have the food industry on board.

Talks will take place over the exact design of the labels. If those discussions go well it could mark the end of what has been a long-running campaign to introduce front of pack labelling.

The issue has been under discussion for the past decade with campaigners seeing it as a way of tackling the rising rates of obesity.

But the introduction of a consistent system has proved difficult, and instead a range of different labels have gradually been introduced over the years.

Despite the government’s confident announcement, this is still not quite a done deal.

Within the food industry – and particularly among manufacturers rather than the supermarkets themselves – there are still grumblings about front of pack labelling.

But after years of discussions and research and a detailed consultation over the summer, ministers are effectively sticking their necks out to force the sector over the line.

If a consistent system is not in place by the summer of next year the government will feel it can lay the blame elsewhere.

Some retailers and manufacturers have used “traffic-light” labelling, in which the least healthy foods are labelled red and the most healthy are in green, while others use guideline daily amounts – or GDAs – which give the percentage of recommended intake. Some use both.

There has also been confusion over how a system could be introduced.

To make it mandatory, regulations would have to be agreed on a European level, but agreement between countries has been hard to reach.

So the situation has meant that the UK government sought to introduce a voluntary system.

Public Health Minister Anna Soubry said: “The UK already has the largest number of products with front-of-pack labels in Europe, but research has shown that consumers get confused by the wide variety of labels used.

“By having a consistent system we will all be able to see, at a glance, what is in our food. This will help us all choose healthier options and control our calorie intake.

“Obesity and poor diet cost the NHS billions of pounds every year. Making small changes to our diet can have a big impact on our health and could stop us getting serious illnesses – such as heart disease – later in life.”


Tax fizzy drinks and ban junk food ads say doctors

February 19, 2013 By: Dr Search- Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Diets, Doctors, Healthcare, NHS Deaths, Obesity, smokers, Uncategorized, weight loss

Fizzy drinks should be heavily taxed and junk food adverts banished until after the watershed, doctors have said, in a call for action over obesity.Tax fizzy drinks and ban junk food ads say doctorsThe Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, which represents nearly every doctor in the UK, said ballooning waistlines already constituted a “huge crisis”.

Its report said current measures were failing and called for unhealthy foods to be treated more like cigarettes.

The UK is one of the most obese nations in the world with about a quarter of adults classed as obese. That figure is predicted to double by 2050 – a third of primary school leavers are already overweight.

Doctors fear that a rising tide of obesity will pose dire health consequences for the nation.

The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges is a “united front” of the medical profession from surgeons to GPs and psychiatrists to paediatricians. It says its doctors are seeing the consequences of unhealthy diets every day and that it has never come together on such an issue before.

Its recommendations include:

  • A ban on advertising foods high in saturated fat, sugar and salt before 9pm
  • Further taxes on sugary drinks to increase prices by at least 20%
  • A reduction in fast food outlets near schools and leisure centres
  • A £100 million budget for interventions such as weight-loss surgery
  • No junk food or vending machines in hospitals, where all food must meet the same nutritional standards as in schools
  • Food labels to include calorie information for children

Prof Terence Stephenson, the chair of the Academy, evoked parallels with the campaign against smoking.

“That required things like a ban on advertising and a reduction in marketing and the association of smoking with sporting activities – that helped people move away from smoking.”

He said there was no “silver-bullet” for tackling obesity, instead the entire culture around eating needed to change to make it easier to make healthy decisions.

“I choose what I eat or whether I smoke, what people have told us is they want help to swim with the tide rather than against the current to make the healthy choice the easy one,” he said.

While the report makes a raft of recommendations, Prof Stephenson attacked sugary drinks for being “just water and sugar” and lambasted a culture where it was deemed acceptable to drink a litre of fizzy drink at the cinema.

A tax was needed to help “encourage people to drink more healthy drinks,” he said.

“Doctors are often accused of playing the nanny state, we didn’t hear from a single person who said they liked being overweight, everybody we met wanted help from the state and society.

“If we didn’t have things like this we wouldn’t have speed limits that save lives, we wouldn’t have drink-driving limits that save lives, there’s a host of things that society and state does to help us live long, healthy fulfilling lives and we’re just suggesting something similar.”

Children from poorer backgrounds are more likely to be obese

February 05, 2013 By: Dr Search- Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Conservatives, Health, Obesity, Uncategorized, weight loss, Wellbeing

According to the plain speaking Public Health Minister Anna Soubry deprived kids are now the fattest.Children from poorer backgrounds are more likely to be obeseClearly children from richer backgrounds can be obese-  something she herself acknowledged when she said her point was more that the greater propensity for obesity lay among the more deprived communities.

And the statistics seem to back her up – to some extent at least with the latest figures show that children from the most deprived 10% of backgrounds were nearly twice as likely to be obese.

The data from the government’s child measurement programme, which is carried out in primary schools across England, shows that 12.3% of the poorest reception kids were obese, compared to 6.8% from the wealthiest backgrounds.

A similar pattern emerged among year six pupils – the other age group that takes part in the measurement programme – with 24.3% of the most deprived children obese, compared to 13.7% of the least.

Where the waters get a little muddied is with overweight children that are not quite classed as obese.

Again the children from the more deprived backgrounds are the most likely to be overweight, but by a much smaller margin.

In the case of year six pupils the difference is less than one percentage point.

Perhaps the best thing to do is to combine the two groups, overweight and obese.

When you do that you find about four in 10 children from the most deprived backgrounds are carrying excess weight, compared to nearly three in 10 from the richest.

The gap for reception age children is even closer – one in four, compared to just under one in five.

So it seems as Miss Soubry is right.

It is unusual these days to find a minister using such colourful language -and there are some who believe it will harm the drive to tackle obesity.

Prof Alan Maryon-Davis, a former president of the UK Faculty of Public Health, has some sympathy with the suggestion that such comments can stigmatise people.

But he says: “By saying what she did in the way she said it she got attention. People start talking about the issue and that is good.  And it must be remembered she also talked about bad food and industry so I prefer to give her credit.”

Drinking red wine may help you lose weight

December 10, 2012 By: Dr Search- Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Diets, Health Direct, Health Professionals, Health Websites, Natural Health, Obesity, Uncategorized, weight loss

Drinking red wine could help you lose weight by suppressing your appetite and preventing you from overeating according to new research.Drinking red wine may 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.”

Resveratrol is found in the skin of red grapes and in other fruits.

Resveratrol also has been produced by chemical synthesis and by biotechnological synthesis (metabolic engineered microorganisms) and it is sold as a nutritional supplement derived primarily from Japanese knotweed.


Obesity patients will force hospitals to use large MRI scanners at zoos

November 06, 2012 By: Dr Search- Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Accident & Emergencies, diabetes, Diets, Doctors, Health, Health Professionals, Heart Disease, NHS Deaths, Obesity, Preventable Crisis, Uncategorized, weight loss

The obesity crisis will force NHS hospitals to use super sized MRI scanners at zoos because they are unable to cope with severely overweight patients.Obesity patients will force hospitals to use large MRI scanners at zoosInvestigations by surgeons at North Bristol NHS Trust found only one in six hospitals had access to MRI or CT scanners capable of taking the heaviest patients, weighing over 35 stone.

As an emergency measure, they will need to rely on scanners usually operated by vets as Britain’s obesity crisis means dealing with severely overweight patients becomes more routine.

Hospitals in the US are already calling zoos to use their scanners – built for lions, gorillas, horses and cattle.

Writing in The Royal College of Surgeons of England Bulletin, Inadequate Provision of Care for Morbidly Obese Patients in UK Hospitals  Sally Norton, a consultant bariatric surgeon, warned: “Failure to provide required imaging may lead to delay in diagnosis or inappropriate surgery – and, occasionally, enquiries into the potential use of veterinary or zoological scanners, with resultant loss of dignity for the patient.”

Obesity rates continue to increase in the UK with nearly 25% of adults now obese and 1-2% morbidly obese.

Associated comorbidities include type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, increased incidence of cancer and sleep apnoea.

These impair quality of life and increase mortality.

Furthermore, these illnesses carry a significant cost to the health service and economy, estimated at £3.2 billion in 2007.

It was not just a patient’s weight that could be a problem, she noted: “In addition, abdominal girth may be too great for the aperture of the scanner.”

Ms Norton said: “In the US, hospitals are ringing up zoos to ask, ‘Can we use your scanner?  Our obesity problem is going the way of the US, so it could happen here too.”

CT and MRI scanners are essential to identify a wide variety of medical problems, from stroke to soft tissue joint injury.

Since 1993 the numbers of morbidly obese adults in Britain has tripled from about 450,000 to 1.4 million, according to the National Obesity Observatory.

Being morbidly obese means having a body mass index (BMI) of at least 40, which for someone who is 5ft 9in, equates to weighing 19st 7lb or more.

Ms Norton and colleagues found almost half of British hospitals are inadequately prepared to deal with extremely fat patients, despite growing numbers of people who are morbidly obese.

Besides scanners, they also lack wheelchairs or beds that are big and strong enough – or even patient gowns that will cover their full girth.

Ms Norton said hospitals were failing to keep pace with the changing shape of society because they had so many other things to deal with.

She and colleagues who conducted a survey of 18 hospitals in south west England found only half had cubicles designed to accommodate extremely heavy patients, and many lacked “adequately sized gowns to preserve dignity”.

Standard hospital beds are only designed to take 28 stone, wheelchairs 25 stone and examination couches 21 stone.

Only 39 per cent of theatre departments surveyed had a specific policy for the care of bariatric patients.

There were instances of equipment collapsing and leaving patients injured, she said, while staff could also hurt themselves trying to move them.

Weight loss surgery sold as a quick fix for obesity

October 30, 2012 By: Dr Search- Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Cosmetic Surgery, Diets, Doctors, Health Professionals, Obesity, Patients, Private Healthcare, Uncategorized, weight loss

Weight loss surgery is being sold as a quick fix option to obesity surgeons warn.Weight loss surgery sold as a quick fix for obesityFirms are using questionable selling techniques including limited period offers, potentially misleading before-and-after photos and celebrity ‘success stories’ to attract clients.

Too often patients are not being properly informed of the risks of gastric band and gastric bypass surgery – which are major operations – according to a report Obesity surgery ‘no quick fix’, NCEPOD calls for improvements to pre-surgery counselling published by the National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death (NCEPOD), a charity.

Yet almost a fifth of patients have to be re-admitted to hospital because of complications with what is known as bariatric surgery, and seven per cent require a second operation to sort out problems.

Ian Martin, co-author of the study, said firms were “stressing the benefits but not balancing that with some of the risks”.

“They are suggesting these operations are a quick fix rather than part of a long term commitment to a healthier lifestyle.”

The report found private firms touting for business regularly used “potentially misleading” before-and-after pictures where patients had shed large amounts of weight.

Mr Martin, a facial surgeon, said: “They show lots of pictures of people who were very big becoming ideally slim.  But to get these ideal figures patients will usually require further cosmetic procedures, for example to remove excess skin.”

Mr Martin said advertising websites sometimes contained pictures “of people like Fern Britton, who quite often give their success stories as well”.  The television presenter had a gastic band operation six years ago, but only admitted it two years later.

The report warned: “The use of celebrities in advertising .. could possibly impart a false sense of security.”

Some firms used irresponsible inducements, included a prize draw to win back the cost of surgery.

They also put patients under “undue financial pressure” to sign up, such as cut-off dates for deals and clauses that meant patients could not get their deposit back if they decided against an operation.

Mr Martin said all this mattered because it risked giving bariatric surgery “a bad name”.  He said: “We risk undermining what’s a very very valuable treatment.”

The prospect of the report appears to have spurred Independent Healthcare Advisory Services, which represents private healthcare providers, into action. The organisation released updated guidelines “to protect patients from poor or unsafe practice”.

Mr Martin described the move as “encouraging”, saying: “We hope that the updated guidelines by the IHAS will have a real impact in improving standards of care received by patients in the private sector.”

Professor Norman Williams, president of the Royal College of Surgeons, said: “Bariatric surgery is not a quick fix.  It has been proven to be an incredibly successful and cost-effective treatment for morbid obesity and the many serious conditions associated with it.”

Men need to become match fit if they want to be fathers

October 18, 2012 By: Dr Search- Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Diets, Doctors, Health Direct, Healthcare, IVF, maternity, Obesity, Pregnancy, Sexual Health, Uncategorized, weight loss, Wellbeing

Men have been warned they need to become ‘match fit’ if they want to be fathers, as a fertility study claims too much attention has been focused on mothers’ weight.Men need to become match fit if they want to be fathersWhile the health risks surrounding obesity and pregnancy have largely been centred on overweight mothers, the focus is now on men to lose weight.

Less efficient sperm results in smaller foetuses, poor pregnancy success and reduced placental development.

The discovery was made by reproductive experts from the University of Melbourne, Australia.

World Health Organisation figures show that a staggering 48 per cent of adult males are overweight or obese – making the findings even more of a worry.

The research was conducted by Professor David Gardner, Dr Natalie Hannan and PhD student Natalie Binder.

Prof Gardner, Head of the Department of Zoology, said: “A lot of men don’t understand they need to be healthy before conceiving. Sperm needs to be ‘match fit’ for the games of life and creating life is the biggest thing that we can do.”

The study used IVF to determine the effects of paternal obesity on embryo implantation into the womb and foetal development.

PhD candidate Natalie Binder generated embryos from both normal weight and obese male mice.

She said: “We found development was delayed in the foetuses produced from obese fathers.  Furthermore, placental weight and development was significantly less for embryos derived from the sperm of obese males.

These findings indicate that paternal obesity not only negatively affects embryo development, but also impacts on the successful implantation into the womb.

“This then results in a small placenta which impairs fetal growth and development with long term consequences for the health of the offspring. Our study provides more information about the impact of obesity in men and their ability to start a family and the need to shed kilos in preparation to conceive.”

The findings were presented at the Annual Scientific Meeting of the Endocrine Society of Australia and the Society for Reproductive Biology 2012.