The popularity of organic food is in large part due to the general perception that such foods are healthier, contain fresher ingredients, and thus contain fewer calories. Whether it is for health benefits, or ethical reasons, as consumers it seems our preference for organic foods shows no sign of waning.
According to the Daily Mail a new study reinforces the common belief that organic foods are healthier than conventional foods. The study, conducted by scientists at New York’s Cornell University, found that foods labelled organic influenced people’s perception when choosing foods. The study involved 115 participants, with each participant asked to evaluate three pairs of food products, one labelled organic and one labelled regular. Participants however, were unaware that in truth the food pairings used were actually both organic.
Results showed that despite being the same product, the label greatly influenced how participants valued the taste, price value and health credentials for each food. Hence the study’s participants not only believed that foods labelled organic were more appetising, the majority were willing to pay up to 23% more for the foods labelled organic.
Organic foods/foods labelled as organic are foods produced to standards, which have helped keep production as natural as possible. In comparison to other foods, fewer chemicals are used, and most pesticides are prohibited. As consumers we believe that foods that have less pesticides are healthier.
The organic labelling experiment further demonstrates what scientists term as the ‘health halo effect’, in which previous studies have shown that as consumers we perceive the term ‘organic’ to mean healthier. However, a study undertaken at Stanford University last year, found that although organic foods did not expose eaters to pesticides, in many cases they contained only slightly more nutritional value than conventional foods. Likewise results showed they did not contain any more health benefits than regular foods.
Whether you prefer purchasing organic foods, or regular foods it is important that along with regular exercise you eat healthily in order to reduce your risk of health complications like obesity, type2 diabetes, and coronary diseases, all which could occur as a result of an unhealthy diet. It is advised therefore you:
There are many benefits to eating produce that has been produced organically. Such benefits include; food is free of genetic modification such as pesticides, fungicides, herbicides and insecticides. In many cases organic foods have proven to contain fresher ingredients. Such produce arguably is also more environmentally friendly (to soil/water). Organic meat produce also does not contain any hormones.
Regardless of its wellbeing status, the health credentials of foods labelled or sold as ‘organic’ has for many critics been a debatable one. With various studies having opposing beliefs on the health benefits of organic foods, it is imperative that whether you prefer buying organic foods, regular foods, or a mixture of the two, eating a healthy and balanced diet is the most important thing of all.
Following proposals to introduce plain packaged cigarettes in the UK, Scottish ministers have launched a campaign aimed at reducing the amount of its population that choose to smoke to less than 5% by 2034, paving the way for a virtually tobacco free generation.
Scottish public health minister, Mr Matheson, said that the campaign would be an ‘achievement we could all be proud of’ and, if successful, would bring all sorts of ‘health, social and economic benefits.’
Scotland isn’t the only country to set a tobacco free target. In fact, Scotland was the third nation to do so, after New Zealand (by 2025) and Finland (by 2040). As different countries follow suit and deploy their own strategies, we will establish the most effective anti-smoking techniques and will eventually be able to properly tackle the smoking problem.
The question is whether we can completely stamp out smoking considering its positive representation in the media and its function as a remedy for industrial living.
Nevertheless, strategies like the one outlined by Scotland can only be a positive step towards a smoke-free society. The key guidelines of the scheme include:
Scotland always seem to lead the way in terms of anti-smoking measures having been the first country in the UK to initiate a public smoking ban in 2006. Of course, there is a reason for this. Smoking causes as many as 13,000 deaths in Scotland every year and has been cited as the chief cause of premature death. According to NHS records in Scotland, treatment methods and smoking-related technology costs them approximately 271million each year.
Anti-smoking groups and NHS representatives have understandably welcomed the news of a 'cutting-edge' strategy from the government. Sheila Duffy, chief executive of ASH Scotland, added:
“The tobacco-free generation is a vision well worth striving for - that a child born now in any part of Scotland will reach adulthood breathing clean air, being free from tobacco addiction, and living in a community where to smoke is unusual.”
A good point well made in my eyes, but at the moment this is the stuff only dreams are made of. The process will inevitably be gradual hence the somewhat distant forecast of 2034, but at least ministers are now prioritising the problem instead of sweeping it under the carpet. Previous measures have been proven to be very effective which is reflected in certain statistics. Rates of smoking have fallen from 32% in 1999 to 23.3 % in 2011, although remaining as high as 40 % in the most deprived areas.
Lets hope that the new measures can create the same kind of figures in years to come.
Our patience with our local doctors appears to be waning. It seems that the days waiting for weeks on end to find your next available appointment, or patiently queuing for hours to see your local GP may be numbered. Us Brits are taking matters into our own hands, as new research shows that Britons are more than twice as likely to seek health advice online, as opposed to a consultation with their doctor.
We know how powerful a tool the online and interactive world is. So perhaps it is not surprising that many of us are using the Internet to not only do our food shopping, clothes shopping or pay our bills, but also use it as a self-educational tool, to learn or get advice, all from the comfort of our homes. With an increasing public backlash regarding the length of time it takes to get an appointment to see your GP, and what many consider to be excessive waiting times, perhaps it is not surprising that there has been a rise in people taking the responsibility for their health and health care into their own hands.
According to the study, the reasons why so many of us are using the Internet for health advice as opposed to traditional face-to-face communication with our local GP, derives from our need to implement lifestyle changes. A need to improve our health and wellbeing, appearance and medical advice should we become ill, all contribute to the rise in using online health services. Figures showed that 56% of 25-34 year olds consult the Internet for health advice, with just 16% preferring to go to their GP. With conditions like erectile dysfunction, impotence, and STI infections, the Internet has proven to be an alternative and discreet vehicle, allowing you to seek advice for conditions that you may not feel confident talking to your GP about.
Although the Internet has proved to beneficial in allowing us to get advice and information on lifestyle changes, it is essential that such advice is accurate. Nutritionist Azmina Govindji, a member of the British Dietetic Association, puts forth her concerns, citing the dangers of getting inaccurate information from the online world. Similarly, with fraud and fake online websites ever emerging, it is vital that you make sure that the advice that you use is correct, safe and more importantly from a registered online health site. Here are a few tips to help you identify a licensed health clinic:
All of these tips should be followed to ensure that the information you read and evidently may practice as a result is not only credible but also truthful and accurate. Not only should you use the above points as a guide to ensure that the online health service you are using is authentic, but if you do decide to go beyond just advice and decide to purchase medication, you only able to do so after completing a consultation to assess your suitability to your choice of medication.
It is no secret that Britain has a somewhat love affair with salt, with regrettably many of us eating far too much salt than is needed. This is largely considered to be a key factor to why over the last few years the government’s campaign against our consumption of salt has been relentless. According to the NHS, the total amount of salt that should be consumed by adults is 6g per day, which is approximately one full teaspoon. But recent figures suggest that the average adult Brit consumes as much as 8g of salt per day.
A recent survey may have found one cause behind our cravings for salt with findings exposing the shocking levels of salt used in the dishes of a number of popular restaurants. Such alarming findings show just how much a high salt diet can have damaging effects to your health.
The study looked at 700 popular dishes served in well-known restaurants. They found that half of their foods were high in salt and contained up to 2.4 of salt per portion. The study, which was conducted by Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH), also discovered that meals that were the saltiest contained more than the recommended daily intake. Favourite restaurants like Pizza Hut, Weatherspoons, McDonalds, Burger King, Subway and Wagamamas were just some of the bistros analysed, with 93% of the pizzas comprising of more than 2.4g of salt.
A diet high in salt causes high blood pressure, which though often does not display any symptoms, is responsible for serious health complications such as heart attack, heart diseases, (failure) and stroke. Likewise too much salt in our daily diet has been linked to other severe health conditions such as the thinning of bones (osteoporosis), kidney disease and stomach cancer and is responsible for the needless deaths of thousands of people. According to the Daily Mail, a new study has linked the consumption of excess salt to a variety of autoimmune conditions like eczema, alopecia and asthma. Not only is this new realisation worrying, it is a constant reminder that further action needs to be made by both the government and the responsibility of individuals, to implement the necessary measures to reduce salt intake.
Perhaps what is more frustrating is that such health risks are largely preventable if your salt intake is even slightly reduced,. According to the Department of Health, reducing the intake of salt by as little as 1g per day could save and prevent 4,147 deaths, and would annually save £288m to the NHS.
Fortunately there are ways, in which you can reduce your salt intake significantly, as highlighted by the NHS, who provide a number of helpful tips. These include, shopping for low salt foods, taking care, when purchasing, sauces, ready-made meals, and certain meats. They also suggest using the traffic light system displayed on food labels, to help you identify which foods contain high levels or salt. Cooking with less salt is also recommended, by using alternatives like black pepper, and fresh herbs to add flavour.
Making homemade gravies or sauces as opposed to shop bought ones, which are saturated with large amounts of salt is also encouraged. In relevance to the salt scandal in restaurant’s, the NHS advise that people choose where they dine carefully, making sure to order alternatives and if provided by the restaurant, check the salt (sodium) label. If such changes are implemented than not only will your risk of health complications caused by salt be greatly reduced, but such measures could potentially save your life.
Lets face it, getting spots or suffering from skin that is acne prone, cannot only cause great distress but can also affect a person’s confidence. More still is the feeling that while your skin seems to be experiencing frequent breakouts, your friends, family members or even work colleagues seem to have no such problems. For years scientists, have been perplexed on the causes behind the skin condition, with hormones, age, foods, stress and genetic history, just some of the common factors used to explain why some people are prone to the pesky pimples than others. According to the Daily Mail, a new study has added an another factor to this list, by claiming that a strain of ‘bad bacteria’ is a key cause behind a person's probability of developing acne.
Acne vulgaris is a bacterial skin condition that is caused by male sex hormones known as androgens. When these hormones increase the production of sebum in the sebaceous glands of the skin too much, your pores can become blocked, resulting in skin to appear oily and acne to occur. Thus acne can appear, as whiteheads, blackheads, papules, pustules, nodules and cysts, all which are types of acne.
Published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, the study looked in depth at the bacteria that exists on the skin. They discovered that this bacteria contained both strains of what they termed as ‘good’ bacteria and ‘strains of ‘bad’ bacteria. Findings discovered that the ‘good’ strains of bacteria worked to protect the skin, while in contrast the ‘bad’ strains of bacteria played a significant role in the development of the skin condition. Thus the study concluded that if an imbalance occurred promoting more strains of the ‘bad bacteria’, then acne spots would develop. In contrast, results showed that those with more ‘good’ strains of bacteria prevented ‘bad’ bacteria from infecting the bacterial cell, thus resulting in clearer skin.
The study’s findings go a long way in helping to discover why some people are more prone to suffering from acne than others. Although it is widely believed that changes in hormones resulting in an increased production of oil levels in the skin, are the primary reason for acne to occur, this only provides an explanation as to why teenagers, pregnant women, women on their monthly cycle and people taking medications that include hormones, are susceptible to frequent outbreaks. However, this theory is somewhat limited when explaining why acne still occurs in only some teenagers, pregnant women and some people long into their adulthood. Though it has been acknowledged that acne can be a genetic or hereditary condition, that is passed down, for some people, this may not be the case.
Results from this study therefore, explaining the importance of having more ‘good’ bacteria as opposed to having too much ‘bad’ bacteria, may explain why some people are more likely to suffer from an outbreak of pimples than others. But why some people have more strains of ‘bad bacteria’ and some have more strains of ‘good’ bacteria in the first place, is still something that scientists are looking at. Although there are effective acne medications, which can help treat the condition, it seems like for some of us, our little friends are likely to rear their pimply heads.
Once considered a relatively treatable sexually transmitted disease, it now seems that a new strain of gonorrhoea classified as drug resistant has emerged. According to the Daily Mail, health experts in a new report have warned that a new strain of the bacterial infection has manifested into a ‘superbug’, consequently becoming resistant to antibiotics, medication, which otherwise has been considered an effective treatment for the infection. Recent statistics show a 25% rise in what has been termed by experts as ‘untreatable gonorrhoea’. Such findings I believe are considerably worrying and show that despite the various campaigns to bring sexual health awareness to the public consciousness, the message of safe sex is not working.
Gonorrhoea is a form of bacterial sexually transmitted infection recognised for being one of the UKs most common STIs. Caused by the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoea or gonococcus, the infection is spread through unprotected sex and sharing sex toys of an affected person. Although symptoms can in many cases be asymptomatic, common symptoms of the infection include abnormal vaginal or penile discharge, pain while urinating and in women unexplained bleeding between periods. Unlike this new strain of the infection, which seems to have developed a resistance to the usually recommended treatments, gonorrhoea is generally treated with a single dose of antibiotics, which according to the NHS, are clinically proven to be up to 95% effective in successfully treating the infection.
The study, according to the Health Protection Agency (HPA), has confirmed that approximately 20,000 new cases of the treatment-resistant strains of gonorrhoea have been found. It was revealed that nearly a third of these cases reported, derived from people that had previously been affected with the gonorrhoea infection. The World Health Organisation worryingly has warned that such cases of the drug resistant- infection have spread in various parts of the world.
Not only is it concerning that the rates of those infected with gonorrhoea (in particular the treatment-resistant strain version) have increased. Such figures show that the importance of sexual health and sexual awareness is imperative and that something needs to be done to prevent an epidemic. The Health Protection Agency is also attempting to bring forth awareness of the new strain of gonorrhoea to the public domain, by creating the first Gonorrhoea Resistance Action Plan. Otherwise known as Grasp, this plan also aims to set out actions and find a solution to prolong the life of current prescription treatments.
It seems that contraceptive failure and a lack of sexual education or awareness are primarily to blame for not only the rise of gonorrhoea, but the rise of the new strain of the bacterial infection. Critics have argued that having unprotected sex, and thus relying on the antibiotic, which seemingly in the past have been effective in treating the infection, may have contributed to help the bacterial infection creating genetic modifications and subsequently form a resistant to medications.
Recognised as a treatment for post-menopausal women, it now seems that HRT (hormone replacement therapy) may offer other health benefits. According to The Independent, a new study has found that hormone replacement therapy can block signs of rapid aging, which may potentially be linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
Hormonal replacement therapy is given to postmenopausal women to reduce the common symptoms associated with the condition. During the menopause, a woman’s oestrogen levels fall significantly, producing such symptoms like vaginal dryness, mood swings, weight gain and hot flushes. HRT works by supplying the body with high levels of lost oestrogen and alleviating these uncomfortable symptoms to allow a woman’s body to function normally again. Thus HRT has proven to be an effective treatment for the menopause. So a new study, which suggests that HRT may provide additional health benefits, is somewhat revolutionary.
The study was conducted in California, at Stanford University, where the findings were found in healthy women who were menopausal and carrying a recognised Alzheimer’s gene. Upon looking at the blood samples of women to distinguish the trademark of accelerated genetic aging, they discovered that HRT seemed to slow down the process for those women considered ‘at risk’ of the Alzheimer’s gene APOE4. In comparison to women who were not given HRT and thus showed signs of an accelerated aging process, those that were given treatment did not show such signs. As a result the research, which was published in the online journal Public Library of Science ONE, suggests that accelerated genetic or biological aging may be linked with Alzheimer’s in selected women.
Telomeres, which protect DNA during the cell division process, shorten with each division and as such are used as indicators of age. The test involved studying samples from women between the ages of 45-65 - the common age for a woman to start the menopause - with one group remaining on the therapy while the other was taken off HRT. Women carrying the Alzheimer’s gene had telomeres that were six times more likely to have significant shortening over the last couple of years, in comparison to women who did not carry the gene. However, the inclusion of oestrogen via the hormonal replacement therapy prohibited the effect of the gene on the length of telomere. Furthermore, carriers of the Alzheimer’s gene APOE4 did not show any signs of quick telomere shortening whilst taking hormonal replacement therapy.
As the study was only done for a short time, the true results of using HRT and the extent to which it helps slow the aging process are not conclusive. Likewise, the study fails to confirm whether HRT can actually prevent Alzheimer’s disease. It also doesn’t provide enough information on how long HRT should be used and how hormonal replacement therapy might vary from women to women. For some women the inclusion of oestrogen can only be used for small amounts of a time due to the risks caused by too much oestrogen.
Likewise, the study fails to differentiate between the various types of HRT, and doesn’t acknowledge whether one type of HRT is more effective than another. However, although the study may have some limitations, I agree with Dr Simon Ridley from the charity Alzheimer's Research UK, that findings from the study could ‘provide a useful new lead for research in this complex area.’
While at the local supermarket there are usually two key factors which influence our decision when buying food. They include the price of foods and the nutritional information displayed on the packaging. Thus for those who are watching the calories and subsequently using the nutritional information on foods as a guide to follow a healthy lifestyle, it will be especially worrying to hear that some manufacturers may not be entirely truthful on their packaging.
According to The Daily Mail, Mark Isark, a leading consumer activist who runs the consumer barcode app website CanlEtlt, has claimed that shoppers are unsuspectingly buying foods high in sugar, salt and fat because manufacturers are employing devious tactics such as failing to show the nutritional value on some food packages as a means to hide the ‘true’ nutritional value on big brand foods. He claims that manufacturers use a number of tricks and devices to deceive consumers. They include:
According to Mark Isark, many big brand foods fail to even list the nutritional information on their packages rather opting to following the ‘What they don’t know won’t hurt them’ method, to prevent customers from turning away. Such a tactic does little to help the consumer watch and control their eating habits.
Over the last few years, awareness about the hidden dangers of consuming high levels of salt in your diet have been bought to the forefront of the public domain, thus the national recommendation of 6g as a daily salt limit. A common trick by manufacturers is to avoid displaying the true salt content in their products by labelling it as sodium instead.
Many drinks are hiding their sugar content in carbohydrates, but are still clearly showing other nutritional values that noticeably are regarded as healthy, such as the energy and salt values. Such strategies to hide the nutritional value regarded the most important to consumers such as the sugar content are simply deceptive and show that manufacturers have little regard for the health of consumers.
Clearly employed to deter you from trying to find out a brand’s nutritional value or calorie content, this method involves manufacturers using doubling labelling. This type of labelling is when the consumer is required to peel back the label at the forefront of the package in order to see the product’s nutritional value.
It is worrying that, despite the government’s attempts at prohibiting the food industry by introducing new laws to limit the amount of salt and sugar and saturated food content in foods, revelations such as this have emerged. Hiding the nutritional values of food, or using methods to falsely misrepresent the ‘health value’ of some food, is irresponsible and I agree with Mark Isark that with so many people suffering with obesity-related health conditions, something must be done.
It’s been done with food, and now it looks like the trend of displaying the calories on the products that you consume is set to extend to alcohol. According to The Guardian, a recent report has confirmed that discussions debating whether the calorie content should be included on alcohol labels, have taken place between the alcohol industry and the health minister Anna Soubry. The government hope that the inclusion of calorie content labels on alcoholic beverages will help to improve drinker’s knowledge of alcohol, information on the daily guidelines, and the potential health risks.
The campaign against obesity and the inclusion of calorie content labels on foods is not a new one, after the emergence of the 'Reasonability Deal' last year, the brainchild between the government and the food industry. The deal was created to ensure that limits were placed on the food industry, effectively prohibiting the industry from selling foods high in fat, sugar, and salt. Hence this deal was seen as a measure by the government to address and subsequently slow down the country’s obesity crisis.
When we think about obesity we think about food, in particular the over consumption of food. Although this is true, many of us fail to realise how much alcohol plays a part in our daily calorie count. A large glass of wine amounts to 200 calories, while the average beer equals to 215 calories. Thus without even knowing it, drinking just a couple of glasses of wine a week could have a serious effect on your waist line. Likewise a cocktail such as a pina colada contains 245 calories.
Not only will knowing how much calories an alcoholic beverage contains help to monitor your weight or daily calorie intake, like food, it could also help you to become more aware of how much you are drinking. It could therefore act as deterrent to people who are health conscious but oblivious to the calorific nature of some alcoholic drinks.
A common belief held by many as a way to avoid putting on the pounds and limiting the chance of getting drunk, is to include diet mixers in their beverage. However, a recent study has squashed this notion after researcher’s claimed that drinkers who chose diet mixers to reduce their alcohol levels, became more intoxicated. Furthermore, the study concluded that the sweeteners found in diet mixers do nothing to reduce the affect of alcohol. Although these diet mixers may reduce the amount of calories consumed, they do nothing to deter the affects of alcohol. The study also suggests that a drinker will become more intoxicated while drinking these drinks. Such findings makes me believe that although diet mixers may help you to avoid putting on the pounds, your lack of awareness of how drunk you really are, could potentially be dangerous.
Putting calorie content information on alcohol labels will no doubt have many benefits including helping drinkers to become more aware of the calories they are consuming and thus enabling them to control their weight more effectively. Alcohol has for so long been a hidden factor behind the cause of obesity. Such a system will, I believe, help to highlight and bring awareness to the connection between alcohol and obesity. If it's to be believed that the labeling will also include information on how much a particular beverage contributes to your daily guideline, than this could also potentially help you to know your limit and when to stop, which for a number of health reasons would be highly beneficial.
For many people wanting to lose weight or include exercises in their regime, an image of 60 minutes high intensity workouts five days a week comes to most minds. However according to the Daily Mail, a new study has suggested that light and less strenuous exercises, which provide short burst of energy could be just as effective. Moreover, the study suggests that light exercise can also help to prevent conditions that can arise due to a lack of exercise.
This is welcoming news for those who are intimidated with the sight of a gym membership or fear the brutality that a strict exercise regime can cause.
Statistics from the study showed that 43% of people who did light exercises, which included doing household chores, subsequently still met the government’s physical recommended 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day. This was in contrast to those that worked out in the gym, which amounted to less than 10%.
As opposed to spending hours pounding away on the treadmill, Professor Brad Cardinal claims that lighter exercises in what he terms as more natural exercises such as household chores, normal everyday tasks like raking the leaves and taking a walk while on your phone or a bike ride all created the same benefits as regular high impact exercise thus contributed to cardiovascular exercise.
Professor Brad Cardinal argues that natural exercises thus making moderate exercise a way of life was “cost effective than an expensive gym membership”. Tips he gave included, doing exercises in front of the TV during the commercials, and ditching the car and choosing to ride or walk to your destination.
Perhaps more positive is Professor Brad Cardinal claims that light exercise when accumulated together can fight off disorders that can evidently increase the risk of health complications such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
The fact that this study is claiming that short burst of energy from light exercises such as walking or doing household chores still provides benefits is highly encouraging. It also means that if you have children, have a hectic work schedule, or are newly starting an exercise regime and want to start off slow, news such as this gives you the confidence that a little exercise can go a long way.
If you are looking for health services near you or advice about a particular condition, the official website for the National Health Service will have the answer.LabsDirect
LabsDirect offers patients access to a number of laboratory tests that can be done at home. This discrete service offers STI screenings, DNA, diagnostic and allergy testing.The Department of Health
The official government website for the Department of Health in the United Kingdom. You can find out more information regarding health policies and regulatory agencies here.