Round-Up of Global News In Health and Complementary Medicine

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WEEK BEGINNING APR 23

Gene Found For Sweet Tooth

That sweet tooth could all be in the genes after all. A predilection for puddings may be written in your genes, according to new research. American scientists have discovered that a mouse gene responsible for the ability to taste sweet foods is also present in humans. During evolution, animals that could differentiate sweet from bitter foods would have a reproductive advantage because they would be able to avoid poisonous plants in favour of nutrient-rich, ripe fruit. However, the gene now makes the abundance of nutritious chocolate bars hard for humans to resist. The discovery could lead to a range of artificial sweeteners designed for different palates, or chemicals that block the action of the gene. With half of the 13 million dieting Britons destined to pile the weight back on within a year of losing it, this could be the good news 'chocaholics' have been waiting for.

The Times

Let’s Tackle Child Obesity Now

In a drive to reduce childhood weight problems, teachers will now have special responsibility to tell parents if they think their children are overweight. The permanent secretary at the Department of Education, Sir Michael Bichard, told a Commons committee that parents should be informed if their child’s obesity is causing problems with their schooling. ‘It is something that should be done sensitively, but it does need to be done in certain situations,’ Sir Michael said. He added that the long-term health risks outweighed the risk of offending sensibilities. Sir Michael’s comments follow the case of head teacher Andrew Holt, who caused a furore when he sent a letter to a mother expressing concern over the weight of her five-year-old daughter. Mr Holt wrote that his staff believed the girl’s weight was preventing her from doing exercises. The girl’s parents responded angrily, saying that the matter was none of the school’s business. Meanwhile, the Commons committee also interviewed NHS chief executive Nigel Crisp, who said that treatment of obesity costs the health service £500 million a year. He added that 70 per cent of diabetes cases could be prevented if obesity was tackled properly.

Daily Mail

Phobias In Our Genes?

Fear isn’t just all on the surface. For phobias could all be due to a genetic predisposition rather than psychological factors, new research has found. A fear of heights and other phobias such as panic attacks could be an hereditary genetic trait. Scientists from Barcelona University announced their findings at the Human Genome Organisation conference in Edinburgh. Dr Xavier Estivill, who led the research, explained how they pinpointed the gene that may be responsible for panic disorders after a study of 2000 inhabitants of a small village. An investigation of 70 unrelated panic attacks found that all but two of these cases showed evidence of an abnormality in the chromosomes, named DUP25. The study concluded that DUP25 was present in 7 per cent of the population, and that it was a major factor in anxiety attacks. Dr Estivill is now convinced that although environmental factors may cause some disorders, including agoraphobia, most people develop phobias because they are already predisposed to them. ‘One of the significant advantages for many sufferers will be that they and others will know that their disorder is something they can’t help – they were born with it,’ Dr Estivill said. Now it is hoped genetic research could yield new therapies and cures.

Daily Express

Alert: Watch That Sunburn!!!

Suntans shouldn’t be attractive according to medical scientists. A new venture by the Imperial Cancer Research fund is seeking to persuade the public that pale is beautiful, and that people sunbathing are risking their health. They claim that thousands of people each year are developing skin cancer because of a love affair with sunbathing. The anti-cancer campaigners raised the stakes in the crusade by calling on the beauty industry to spread the message that pale is beautiful, and also by enlisting the help of the travel company JMC to help promote its ‘sun-sense’ message. Charity officials denied that they were being spoilsports by pointing out that the incidence of skin cancer, which is the most common form of cancer in this country, is on the increase.

Despite this, a survey published today says that one in seven people would still want a tan, despite running the risk of cancer. One in five said they would ‘binge sunbathe’ and one in seven said they would go out into the sun without any sunscreen on. Consultant dermatologist, Charlotte Proby said: ‘I’m concerned at how desperate some people are for a tan. A suntan shows that the skin is being damaged by too much sunlight and is trying to protect itself. Sun-seeking behaviour and inadequate sun protection increases the risk of being sunburned and this damage will increase the risk of developing skin cancer.

The Guardian

http://www.guardian.co.uk/Archive/Article/0,4273,4175294,00.html

Cramming Doesn’t Work

Burning the midnight oil is a complete waste of time at exam time. New research published in the journal Neuron shows that staying awake the night before an exam to study may not be as good as a good night’s sleep when it comes to remembering facts. Scientists at the University of California took two sets of cats and went about setting them challenges. One group were then left to go to sleep while the others were left with the tasks. The researchers found that the ‘sleep’ group developed twice the amount of brain plasticity (brain change) than the other group, pointing to the possibility that sleep is needed in order to form memories properly. Dr Marcos Frank said: ‘This is the first direct evidence that sleep modifies the effect of environmental stimuli on the development of new brain connections.’

Daily Mail

Food Poisoning Figures Rocket

Food poisoning cases are up in the UK. More than six million Britons have been struck down by food poisoning in the last year, according to a new survey. The study discovered that while most cases are attributable to food from suspect takeaway restaurants, many go unreported. Fears over the safety of meat from shops and restaurants has been highlighted by a large supermarket chain’s recent withdrawal of one of its products when it emerged that meat unfit for human consumption could have been sold. A spokesman for the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health said: ‘Consumers should always contact their local environmental health departments if they suffer from food poisoning as a result of eating at a restaurant or any food premises.’ Sir John Krebs, who heads the Government’s food watchdog, said: ‘The responsibility for change rests with everyone involved in the food business.’

Sunday Express

 

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