Behind the headlines

Knee surgery versus physiotherapy

“Knee surgery to treat osteoarthritis may be a waste of time and money”, said The Daily Telegraph today. It explained that the results of new research suggest that physiotherapy and painkillers are just as effective. In this Canadian study, patients who had either arthoscopic surgery or physiotherapy had similar improvements in joint pain and stiffness, and surgery had “no extra benefit”.

No such thing as 'safe tanning'

“There is no such thing as a ‘safe’ tan – especially from indoor tanning beds”, the Daily Mail reported today. It said that studies in the US found that tanning and cancer both start with DNA damage from ultraviolet (UV) rays. Achieving a safe tan may therefore be impossible. This story has been prompted by a review by Dr David Fisher, president of the Society of Melanoma Research, and his colleagues about the biological effects of UV radiation, its public health implications, and the commercial interests involved in the promotion of tanning.

Babies at risk from vitamin E?

New research has shown that “Vitamin E ‘can increase the risk of heart defects in babies,’” says the Daily Mail. The newspaper warns that consuming as little as three-quarters of the recommended daily amount of vitamin E while pregnant can lead to a nine-fold increase the risk of a heart problem at birth.

Heart worry over plastic chemical

“A chemical found in food tins and baby’s bottles has been linked to an increased risk of developing heart problems,” The Daily Telegraph reported. It said that scientists have found that people with high levels of bisphenol A (BPA) in their bodies were a third more likely to develop heart disease than those with low levels.

Schizophrenia genes probed

Scientists have unlocked “the secrets of schizophrenia”, according to The Independent. The newspaper says that research has identified thousands of tiny genetic variations which together could account for more than one-third of the inherited risk of schizophrenia.

Hot weather headache

A new study suggests that “hot weather can trigger migraines and other debilitating types of head pain”, reported The Daily Telegraph. The newspaper said the research also found that a drop in air pressure can increase the risk of a headache. The study reportedly looked at 7,054 people who attended casualty with severe head pain, and examined whether the weather conditions in the past three days was linked to the frequency of these headaches. It found that an increase of 5ºC raised the risk of a severe headache within 24 hours by 7.5%.

Kids go for salty food and sugary drinks

“Children who eat a lot of salt also consume more sugary drinks, increasing their risk of obesity”, The Daily Telegraph says today. BBC News also reports that British researchers claim to have found a link between a high salt intake and drinking large quantities of fizzy drinks. The researchers propose that reducing children’s salt intake by half (about three grams a day) would cut out two sugary drinks per week, a total of almost 250 calories.

Diets weighed up

“Low carbohydrate diets, such as Atkins, do not work any better than old fashioned calorie counting,” The Daily Telegraph reported. The newspaper said that researchers have found that diets in which starchy foods like potatoes and pasta are restricted work no better than diets that have no carbohydrate restrictions.

Skunk linked to psychosis

Smokers of the strong ‘skunk’ variety of cannabis are seven times more likely to experience psychosis, according to the Daily Mail.

New technique for heart attacks

“New heart attack operations cuts deaths” is today’s headline in The Daily Telegraph. The newspaper describes the study, which shows how deaths from heart attacks “could be halved” if the clots that cause heart attacks are removed before the surgery to re-open the artery begins.

'Kevin and Perry' hormone

Scientists have found “a ‘Kevin and Perry’ hormone that turns angelic children into foul-tempered teenagers”, the Daily Mail reported. It said a study has found that the hormone, neurokinin B, causes the hormonal surge in adolescence. The paper suggested that understanding the hormone better could lead to new contraceptives and treatments for sex hormone-fuelled diseases such as prostate cancer.

Less sleep for older people

Researchers have said that “older people may need less sleep than younger people”, The Daily Telegraph reported today. It said that a US study had found that when people were told to sleep for 16 hours a day for several days, those aged between 60 and 72 years managed an average of 7.5 hours sleep compared to nine hours amongst the 18-32 year-olds. The study also found that most of the younger subjects slept much longer during the study than they normally did, which suggested that they usually did not get enough sleep.

Oestrogen skin treatment

“Applying oestrogen to the skin can counteract one of the main effects of ageing”, The Daily Telegraph reported. The newspaper said that scientists believe they have found a way to stimulate the body’s production of collagen, the chemical that gives skin its youthful appearance and “plumpness”. Volunteers had a form of oestrogen, oestradiol, applied to areas of skin that were exposed to the sun and areas that were covered up.

Cod liver oil reduces painkiller use

“Two teaspoons of cod liver oil a day can cut the number of powerful painkillers needed to ease the pain of arthritis”, reports the Daily Mail. Patients who were given the supplements “were able to reduce their daily dose of anti-inflammatory drugs”, the newspaper says. These findings are important because the long-term use of anti-inflammatory drugs “can double the threat of heart attack and raise the risk of strokes and heart disease”, the Mail adds.

Alcohol limits for children

Parents have been advised that children under 15 should never be given alcohol, BBC News reported. It said that Sir Liam Donaldson, England’s chief medical officer (CMO) has warned that children who drink are at risk of serious harm and that childhood should be an ‘alcohol free time’.

Managing diabetes cuts heart attacks

“Tighter control of blood sugar levels in people with diabetes may cut their risk of heart problems,” BBC News has reported. The news service said a study pooling data on 33,000 people with type 2 diabetes has shown that intensive control of blood sugar levels cuts heart attacks by 17% and heart disease by 15%.

Diet and mental health in teens

A study has found that “teenagers who eat lots of take-aways are more likely to behave badly,” reported the Daily Express. It said that the finding confirms the belief that poor diets are linked to mental health problems. According to the newspaper, the researchers blamed junk food for problems such as depression, aggression and delinquency.

Awareness in vegetative patients

"A man who was presumed to be in a vegetative state for five years has answered questions using his thoughts alone", reported The Times. It said the research could allow some patients who are “locked in” by brain injuries to communicate.

Are insulin-resistant men less prone to prostate cancer?

Obese men may be less likely to develop prostate cancer, but are more likely to die of the disease if they do develop it, reported The Guardian. These men “have a greater risk of developing one of the most aggressive and life-threatening forms of prostate cancer,” the newspaper explained.

Looking scared could be protective

“Fearful faces 'spot threats better'” is the headline on Channel 4 News. The Observer also reported on the same study at the weekend, claiming that a team of Canadian neuroscientists had solved the evolutionary mystery of why our faces contort in a certain way when we are scared.

Obesity and infertility

Levels of obesity in the western world are “soaring” and this may lead to an “infertility crisis” in women, The Guardian reported today. The newspaper continued by saying that couples seeking infertility treatment could double to one in five within the next 5 years, but also that the problem could be eased if women lost weight.

Health after retirement

“Work is good for you, especially after you've retired,” says the Daily Mail. The newspaper and others report that workers who stop working suddenly the moment they reach retirement age are at greater risk of heart attacks, cancer and other major diseases than those who ease their way into old age by taking a part-time job.

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Can being fat be good for you?

“Overweight heart attack victims should stay fat as they are more likely to live longer”, the Daily Mail reported. It said that the controversial claim that being fat can be useful for heart attack patients has come from a review published in a journal.

Chocolate good... says choc maker

Dark chocolate cuts levels of stress hormones and rebalances other body chemicals, according to the Daily Mail. The Daily Express also featured the claim that chocolate reduces the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure and improves brain function.

Meningitis jab recall Q&A

A “toxic vaccine" is a threat to babies, The Independent’s front page reported. It said that health officials had withdrawn more than 20,000 doses of the meningitis C vaccine as some may have been contaminated with the dangerous blood-poisoning bacterium, Staphylococcus aureus. The doses had been sent out "about a week ago" to GP clinics around the country.

Vitamin D in pregnancy

“Women 'should take vitamin D in pregnancy to stave off rickets'” is the headline in The Daily Telegraph today. It suggests that vitamin D supplements may also benefit infants and toddlers. A US study found that “infants who were fed exclusively on breastmilk by mothers who did not take vitamin D supplements were more than 10 times as likely to show signs of a deficiency than bottle-fed babies”. The study found that exposure to the sun, sunscreen use, and skin colouring had no effect on vitamin D deficiency among babies and toddlers.

Abortions and risks to future babies

“Women who have abortions are more likely to have premature or low birth weight babies in later life,” the Daily Mail said. It reported on a large review that has found that women who have had a previous termination could be at risk of having a subsequent premature birth or a low birthweight baby.

Baby DVDs effects questioned

Parents who buy educational DVDs to give their toddlers a head start may be doing more harm than good,” the Daily Mail reported. It said a study on a DVD from Disney's Baby Einstein series found it did nothing to boost vocabulary and children who started on the DVDs at a younger age actually had a worse vocabulary.

Study shows early treatment could prevent major strokes

Rapid treatment following a mini stroke (a transient ischaemic attack, or TIA) reduces the risk of a major stroke occurring by 80%, newspapers reported. The Daily Mail said that there is a 10% risk of “a major disabling or fatal stroke occurring in the first month” following a TIA, but that this could be reduced by prompt drug treatment, preventing up to 10,000 strokes from occurring annually.

Child care link to obesity

"Indulgent grandparents 'overfeed' kids and make them fat," is the headline in the Daily Mail today.

Hunt for the G-spot

“Scientists find the G-spot but not all women have it” is the headline in The Independent. The article it relates to says scientists have found “a thickened area of tissue in those who said they had experienced vaginal orgasms, but not in those who had not”. Many other newspapers and news sources, including the New Scientist, cover the story that an Italian scientist believes he may have found the female G-spot, an elusive and controversial pleasure point, which some women say triggers powerful vaginal orgasms. The Times suggests that this research may also “explain why so many women have searched for their G-spot in vain”, suggesting that not all of them have one.

MS link to brain blood flow tested

Researchers are testing a “radical new theory that multiple sclerosis (MS) is caused by blockages in the veins that drain the brain”, BBC News reported.

Sweet dreams for coughing children

“Honey is better at treating children’s coughs than an ingredient used in many over-the-counter medicines”, The Daily Telegraph reported today. The Guardian, The Times and Channel 4 news also covered a recent study that found honey was more effective than dextromethorphan - the “active ingredient” in many cough remedies - at cutting the severity and frequency of nighttime coughing and aiding children in getting to sleep.

Mint tea tested as painkiller

“An ancient herbal mint tea from Brazil is as effective at delivering pain relief as commercial medicine,” according to The Guardian.

Omega-3 tested on heart patients

“Fish oil may really be an ‘elixir of youth’ because of its effects on our biological ageing,” says The Daily Telegraph.

Exercise 'no relief' for period pain

“Exercise does not help to alleviate period pain, despite it being commonly recommended for women with monthly symptoms,” the BBC reported.

Yoghurt story 'hard to swallow'

A headline in today’s Daily Mail stated: “Yoghurt drinks could beat bugs that pile the weight on.” It said scientists have shown that “bugs that live in our stomachs could be causing us to get fat.” The newspaper said the research could lead to probiotic yoghurts that can combat weight gain.

Children are not active enough

Children are not meeting the internationally recommended levels of physical exercise, reported The Guardian. “To be healthy and stave off risks of obesity and linked conditions such as diabetes, youngsters are recommended to take an hour a day of moderate to vigorous exercise,” the newspaper explained. It suggested that only one in 250 girls and one in 20 boys are getting enough exercise to stay healthy. The Guardian estimated that more than 700,000 children are putting their future health at risk.

Biological clock studied

Several newspapers have reported that women will lose around 90% of their eggs by the age of 30. The Daily Telegraph says that by 40 their reservoir of potential eggs will have shrunk to “almost nothing”.

Cut out coffee diabetics urged

Diabetics have been urged to cut out coffee, according to a news article in the Daily Mail. The newspaper reports that an American study has shown that “a daily dose of caffeine raises blood sugar by 8 per cent”. They go on to say that drinking caffeine may undermine the effects of medication and that simply giving up drinks containing caffeine may be a way of lowering blood sugar.

Coffee 'eases exercise pain'

“Coffee before gym session ‘takes the pain out of exercise,’” The Daily Telegraph has reported. The newspaper says that Professor Motl from the University of Illinois, who has studied the relationship between coffee and exercise for years, has demonstrated in new research that coffee consumption can reduce the pain of high-intensity exercise. It is thought that this is due to its effect on receptors in the body, which normally alert the brain to muscle strain.

Q&A: free prescriptions

From April 2009 people being treated for cancer will be entitled to apply for free prescriptions, even for medication to treat unrelated conditions.

Predicting the biological clock

The Daily Mail today reports on, “the blood test that will set a date for your menopause.” They say scientists are developing a "simple and cheap" test that will measure the level of anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH, involved in the development of ovarian follicles that release eggs) in your blood and be able to “predict within two or three years when the menopause will happen,” the newspaper says.

Cystic fibrosis drug

“Drug hope for cystic fibrosis sufferers” is the headline in The Daily Telegraph. The newspaper reports that a new study of a drug, known as PTC124, “bypasses a genetic defect that causes breathing problems [in cystic fibrosis sufferers], leading to a reduction of symptoms”.

Q&A on tomato-based heart pill

Widespread media coverage has been given to the launch of a new pill to prevent heart disease and stroke. The Sun said the pill, called Ateronon, “could save thousands of lives”. The Daily Telegraph said that the new product contains lycopene, a natural compound found in tomatoes that is a powerful antioxidant. The newspaper said the compound prevents cholesterol and the build-up of fatty (atherosclerotic) deposits in arteries.

Screening for premature births

“Early screening of pregnant women could save 'more than 1,000 premature births a year',” is the headline in the Daily Mail. This is based on comments from British obstetrics and gynaecology consultant Dr Ronnie Lamont, who reportedly suggested that “the links between infections and premature birth are so strong that women should be routinely screened around the 15th week of pregnancy – and given antibiotics if needed”. His comments follow a US study in over 100 women, which found that 15% of women who go on to give birth prematurely have amniotic fluid which is infected with bacteria or fungi.

Are deodorants linked with breast cancer?

Researchers have discovered a new link between breast cancer and deodorants newspapers reported today. Tests which had been carried out on women who had mastectomies found high levels of aluminium, an ingredient found in some deodorants, in their breast tissue.

HIV vaccine cuts infection

An experimental HIV vaccine cuts infections by a third, newspapers reported. The Guardian called it a “breakthrough”, and the first evidence of a possible vaccine against AIDS. It said a trial in more than 16,000 men in Thailand found vaccinated men had a 31% lower risk of infection.

Warning over car seats for babies

“Parents should keep children in rear facing car seats ‘until the age of four’,” The Daily Telegraph has reported. It said that this would give greater protection in a car crash. According to the newspaper, while parents are currently advised to place babies and young children in rear-facing seats, most children grow out of them by the time they reach around eight months old (about 9kg in weight), at which point it is common to switch children to front-facing seats.

‘Nature v nurture’ IQ debate continues

Breastfeeding in the first few months of life can “boost children’s IQ by seven points”, the Daily Mail and other newspapers reported. The effect only occurs in those who carry a particular genetic variant, but The Independent said that “most babies could potentially benefit from breastfeeding in terms of a raised IQ” as the gene variant is present in 90% of the population.

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