Limit children’s snacks to 100 calories, health body says

Child reaching for a cake

Half of the sugar young children in England consume comes from unhealthy snacks and sweet drinks, figures show.

On average, primary school children have at least three sugary snacks a day, Public Health England found.

This means they can easily consume three times more sugar than the recommended maximum.

PHE has launched a campaign to encourage parents to look for healthier snacks of no more than 100 calories – and to limit them to two a day.

The eight-week Change4Life campaign will offer money-off vouchers towards items including malt loaf, lower-sugar yoghurt and drinks with no added sugar in some supermarkets.

  • How much sugar is hidden in your food?
  • Sugar targets set for cakes and chocolate
  • Sugar warning over fruit snacks

Children between the ages of four and 10 consumed 51.2% of their sugar from unhealthy snacks, including biscuits, cakes, pastries, buns, sweets, juice and fizzy drinks, PHE’s National Diet and Nutritional Survey found.

Each year children consume, on average, some 400 biscuits, 120 cakes, buns and pastries, 100 portions of sweets, 70 chocolate bars and ice creams and 150 juice drink pouches and cans of fizzy drink, the data shows.

Too much sugar can cause tooth decay and obesity.


Calories in snacks

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Manufacturers are being challenged to cut sugar by 20% in their products by 2020
  • An ice cream – about 175 calories
  • A pack of crisps – 190 calories
  • A chocolate bar – 200 calories
  • A pastry – 270 calories

Source: Kantar research group

Snacks containing no more than 100 calories

  • Soreen malt lunchbox loaves (apple, banana or original malt)
  • Petits Filous fromage frais (strawberry and raspberry, strawberry, strawberry and apricot, strawberry and banana)
  • Fruit Shoot hydro water in apple and blackcurrant flavour
  • Fresh or tinned fruit salad
  • Chopped vegetables and lower fat hummus
  • Plain rice cakes or crackers with lower fat cheese
  • Sugar-free jelly
  • One crumpet
  • One scotch pancake

Source: Public Health England


The Change4Life campaign now wants parents to give their children a maximum of two snacks a day containing no more than 100 calories each, not including fruit and vegetables.

The campaign will offer parents special offers on a range of healthier snacks – ones with 100 calories or fewer – at selected supermarkets, Public Health England said.

Healthier suggested snacks include packs of chopped vegetables and fruit, malt loaf, sugar-free jelly, and plain rice crackers.

Public Health England said it had also improved its app that reveals the content of sugar, salt and saturated fat in food and drink.

Lunch box snacks

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, told the BBC she hoped the campaign would help to “empower” parents to make healthier snacking choices for their children.

“If you wander through a supermarket you see many more things being sold as snacks than ever before,” she said.

“What has changed is kids’ lunch boxes are getting full of snacking products. It leads to a lot of calories for lunch.

“Our research showed us that parents appreciated a rule of thumb. They were surprised how much sugar their children were consuming in snacks.”

Justine Roberts, founder of Mumsnet, said: “The volume of sugar kids are getting from snacks and sugary drinks alone is pretty mind blowing, and it can often be difficult to distinguish which snacks are healthy and which aren’t.

“This rule of thumb from Change4Life will help parents make healthier choices, which can only be a good thing.”

Public Health England has previously called on businesses to cut sugar by 20% by 2020, and by 5% in 2017, but experts have questioned how the targets can be enforced.

Taiwan dentist must repay mother for training fees

File photo: Close up of a dentist examining a patient's teeth

Taiwan’s top court has ordered a man to pay his mother almost $1m (£710,000) for raising him and funding his dentistry training.

The mother signed a contract with her son in 1997, when he was 20 years old, stating he would pay her 60% of his monthly income after qualifying.

She took him to court after he refused to pay her for several years.

The son argued it was wrong to demand a financial return for raising a child, but the court ruled the contract valid.

He has been ordered to make back payments, as well as interest, to his mother.

‘Responsibility to provide’

The mother, identified only by her surname Luo, raised both her sons after she and her husband divorced.

Ms Luo said she had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars funding both her sons through dentistry school, but became worried they would be unwilling to care for her in old age.

Subsequently, she signed a contract with both of them stipulating they would pay her a portion of their earnings as repayments for the school fees, up to a total of $1.7m.

The elder son reached an agreement with his mother and settled the contract for a smaller amount, local media report.

However, the younger son, identified by his last name Chu, argued that he was very young when he signed the agreement, and the contract should be considered invalid.

Mr Chu also argued that he had worked in his mother’s dental clinic for years after graduating and had helped her make more than the amount he was now ordered to pay her.

A Supreme Court spokeswoman told the BBC the judges had reached their decision mainly because they thought the contract was valid since the son was an adult when he signed it and was not forced to do so.

Under Taiwan’s civil code, adult offspring have the responsibility to provide for their elderly parents, although most parents do not sue if their children fail to take care of them in old age, the BBC’s Cindy Sui in Taipei reports.

This case is seen as particularly unusual because it involves a parent-child contract, our correspondent adds.

Gaming addiction classified as disorder by WHO

Boys playing video game

Gaming addiction is to be listed as a mental health condition for the first time by the World Health Organisation.

Its 11th International Classification of Diseases (ICD) will include the condition “gaming disorder”.

The draft document describes it as a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour so severe that it takes “precedence over other life interests”.

Some countries had already identified it as a major public health issue.

Many, including the UK, have private addiction clinics to “treat” the condition.

The last version of the ICD was completed in 1992, with the new guide due to be published in 2018.

The guide contains codes for diseases, signs and symptoms and is used by doctors and researchers to track and diagnose disease.

It will suggest that abnormal gaming behaviour should be in evidence over a period of at least 12 months “for a diagnosis to be assigned” but added that period might be shortened “if symptoms are severe”.

Symptoms include:

  • impaired control over gaming (frequency, intensity, duration)
  • increased priority given to gaming
  • continuation or escalation of gaming despite negative consequences

Dr Richard Graham, lead technology addiction specialist at the Nightingale Hospital in London, welcomed the decision to recognise the condition.

“It is significant because it creates the opportunity for more specialised services. It puts it on the map as something to take seriously.”

But he added that he would have sympathy for those who do not think the condition should be medicalised.

“It could lead to confused parents whose children are just enthusiastic gamers.”

He said he sees about 50 new cases of digital addiction each year and his criteria is based on whether the activity is affecting basic things such as sleep, eating, socialising and education.

He said one question he asked himself was: “Is the addiction taking up neurological real-estate, dominating thinking and preoccupation?”

Many psychiatrists refer to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the fifth edition of which was published in 2013.

In that, internet gaming disorder is listed as a “condition for further study”, meaning it is not officially recognised.

Lots of countries are grappling with the issue and in South Korea the government has introduced a law banning access for children under 16 from online games between midnight and 06:00.

In Japan, players are alerted if they spend more than a certain amount of time each month playing games and in China, internet giant Tencent has limited the hours that children can play its most popular games.

A recent study from the University of Oxford suggested that, although children spend a lot of time on their screens, they generally managed to intertwine their digital pastimes with daily life.

The research – looking at children aged eight to 18 – found that boys spent longer playing video games than girls.

Researcher Killian Mullan said: “People think that children are addicted to technology and in front of these screens 24/7, to the exclusion of other activities – and we now know that is not the case.”

“Our findings show that technology is being used with and in some cases perhaps to support other activities, like homework for instance, and not pushing them out,” he added.

“Just like we adults do, children spread their digital tech use throughout the day, while doing other things.”

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt sorry as A&Es struggle to cope

Surgery in a hospital

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has apologised to patients in England affected by a decision to postpone tens of thousands of operations in January.

Non-urgent treatments had already been cancelled until mid-January, but NHS England said on Tuesday that would now be extended to the end of the month.

It came after hospitals reported they were struggling to cope with the surge in patients being seen since Christmas.

Mr Hunt said it was “absolutely not what I want”.

But he said the move was needed given the pressure hospitals were under.

“This is the busiest week of the year for the NHS.”

And he also said the whole country was grateful for the work NHS staff were putting in working “incredibly long hours through the night, beyond the call of duty in every possible way”.

His thanks were echoed by Prime Minister Theresa May, who also denied the health service was in crisis.

“The NHS has been better prepared for this winter than ever before,” she added.

If you can’t see the NHS Tracker, click or tap here.

Reports have emerged of patients facing long waits for treatment and being stuck on trolleys in corridors, while ambulances are left queuing outside A&E.

It has prompted at least 16 hospitals to declare major incidents – sometimes known as black alerts – which can lead them to divert ambulances elsewhere and call in extra staff.

And some ambulance services have started asking 999 callers with less serious problems to make their own way to hospital so they can prioritise the most life-threatening calls.

Meanwhile, in Scotland there has been a 20% jump in A&E attendances compared with the previous year, prompting an increase in patients waiting over four hours, and in Northern Ireland the Antrim Area Hospital has been forced to bring in St John ambulance volunteers to help with a surge in demand.

  • Winter pressure health campaign launched
  • NHS to cancel ops to cope with winter

NHS England’s Prof Keith Willett admitted the pressures were severe – the worst he had seen since the 1990s – but said plans were in place.

As well as the cancelling of non-urgent treatments, such as knee and hip replacements, hospitals have been given the green light to put patients on mixed sex wards and to bring GPs into A&E to help deal with patients.

“A crisis is when you haven’t got in place mitigations and you haven’t got a plan to deal with it,” Prof Willett said.

“We’ve gone into this winter in a way we’ve never prepared before.”

Doctor warns of ‘huge tragedy’

But Prof Suzanne Mason, of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said the measures were “too little too late” as hospitals simply had no beds free and these treatments would have had to be cancelled anyway.

She added: “Patient safety is being compromised – there’s no doubt about that. When patients are in crowded emergency departments and staff cannot actually move between patients and provide the basic level of care that’s required, then safety is compromised.

“Patients who spend many hours on a trolley – and these are often elderly patients – they are the sickest patients in our department.

“They are much more likely to have a poorer outcome and even die as a result of their experience in the emergency department. And that is a huge tragedy for us in our specialty and that’s why we are so desperate to see things improve.”

Reports have emerged of serious problems in a number of places over the past 24 hours:

  • Nottingham’s Queen’s Medical Centre has asked patients to avoid its A&E after being deluged on Tuesday evening
  • Southend Hospital said it was dealing with an “internal critical incident” with all its beds full, which has led them to call in extra staff
  • A consultant at University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust apologised for “third world conditions” in his hospital department
  • Milton Keynes University Hospital is telling people only to attend for emergency treatment
  • Two ambulance trusts in the east and north-east of England are on the highest alert
  • A concentration of major incidents declared at hospitals across the West Country and South East

Doctors and nurses have also been speaking about their own experiences.

Dr Adrian Harrop, an A&E doctor at Scarborough Hospital, said he felt he was “fighting a losing battle” as he was not able to do his job properly and care for his patients in the way he wanted.

Meanwhile, Mark Nevison, a senior nurse in the north-east, tweeted he had worked in A&E for 10 years and had “never been so ashamed of the sub-standard care” now being offered.

Why has this happened now?

The first week of the year is always difficult.

The lack of availability of community services, such as GPs, over the festive period means hospitals tend to see a surge in really sick patients at the turn of the year.

Respiratory illnesses also tend to spike after families have been mixing over Christmas bringing frailer older relatives in contact with young family members, increasing the risk of infections being passed on.

But it is also true to say that this is part of a pattern. Last January was the worst in a generation and that followed the previous worst the year before.

Labour shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth has blamed this on “Tory underfunding”.

The health service is in the middle of its toughest cash settlement since it was created.

How bad is the situation?

Image copyright Getty Images

It is very hard to tell. The performance stats – covering waits in A&E, the number of ambulances queuing outside A&E and the amount of operations that have been cancelled – will not be known for a few weeks.

In the lead-up to Christmas, all the indications were that the NHS was in as bad a position as it was the previous winter.

Twice as many patients as there should have been were waiting for more than four hours in A&E, while bed occupancy rates were well above safe levels.

But last winter the really bad spell only lasted a couple of weeks before the pressure eased.

What should patients do?

The public are being urged to play their part by using the health service responsibly.

NHS England said calling 111 was often a quicker and more convenient way of obtaining clinical assessment and advice in non-emergencies and allowed staff in A&E to focus on the sickest patients.

The Royal College of GPs has also set out three basic steps that all patients should consider before seeking an appointment with their GP for an acute illness including self-care, using online guidance from NHS Choices and consulting with a pharmacist.

Are e-cigarettes bad for the heart? Study sheds light

Vape pen e-cigarette close up
The safety of electronic cigarettes is a widely debated issue. The latest research demonstrates that in people who do not smoke, they can alter heart rate variability, which is an indicator of increased adrenaline levels.

Introduced in 2007, electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are now “the fastest-rising tobacco product in the United States.”

There is little doubt that these devices deliver fewer carcinogens to the user, but, because they often contain nicotine, conversations regarding their safety are ongoing.

On the one hand, e-cigarettes offer a relatively safe option for nicotine-addicted individuals. On the other hand, they are seen by some as a new route to addiction with health concerns of their own.

Research published this week in the Journal of the American Heart Association investigates the potential heart health implications of non-smokers using nicotine-based e-cigarettes.

Lead study author Dr. Holly Middlekauff, of the University of California, Los Angeles, says, “While e-cigarettes typically deliver fewer carcinogens than are found in the tar of tobacco cigarette smoke, they also usually deliver nicotine.”

“Many believe that the tar – not the nicotine – is what leads to increased cancer and heart attackrisks. So, we asked the question, are e-cigarettes safe?”

E-cigarettes and the sympathetic response

Nicotine is not a carcinogen, but it is still a drug. It is a sympathomimetic, which is a compound that mimics the sympathetic nervous system, increasing adreline levels in circulation and raising heart rate and blood pressure. These are physiological changes associated with the “fight or flight” response.

It is this activation of the sympathetic nervous system and the influx of adrenaline that worries some medical researchers. These types of actions are, over the long-term, linked with increased cardiovascular risk.

Cardiac sympathetic nerve activity can be measured noninvasively using a heart monitor to detect heart rate variability (HRV), which is the variability in the duration between heartbeats. This measure can be used as a predictor of cardiovascular disease; lower HRV increases risk.

This rise in cardiac sympathetic nerve activity and its associated rise in circulating adrenaline, combined with a lack of long-term data on e-cigarettes, creates concern as to their overall safety.

In other research, Dr. Middlekauff’s team showed that chronic e-cigarette use contributed to increased resting cardiac sympathetic nerve activity.

The current study was designed to find out whether this effect could be seen in acute, or short-term, use of e-cigarettes, and whether it is due to nicotine or other ingredients present in the devices – such as propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin.

E-cigarettes, nicotine, and cardiac risk

In total, 33 healthy volunteers – none of whom smoke cigarettes or e-cigarettes – were involved in the study. Each participant, on separate days, smoked an e-cigarette with nicotine, one without nicotine, and a sham (empty) e-cigarette.

According to the study authors, this is the first study of its kind to separate the nicotine from the non-nicotine components of e-cigarettes in this way.

For each individual, HRV was measured. A blood sample was also taken to assess oxidative stressby measuring levels of an enzyme called plasma paraoxonase.

After analysis, the team found that HRV was significantly altered when individuals used the nicotine e-cigarette but not in the non-nicotine and sham conditions. However, they saw no significant differences in markers of oxidative stress.

Dr. Middlekauff explains how the findings add to the body of evidence against nicotine as a safe drug. “While it’s reassuring that the non-nicotine components do not have an obvious effect on adrenaline levels to the heart,” she says, “these findings challenge the concept that inhaled nicotine is benign or safe.”

She says, “Our study showed that acute electronic cigarette use with nicotine increases cardiac adrenaline levels. And, it’s in the same pattern that is associated with increased cardiac risk in patients who have known cardiac disease, and even in patients without known cardiac disease.”

Limitations and future research

The study has limitations; it included only a small number of participants and studied just one of the thousands of e-cigarette fluids. For this reason, the authors are keen to extend their findings.

I think that just seeing this pattern at all is very concerning and it would hopefully discourage non-smokers from taking up electronic cigarettes.”

Dr. Holly Middlekauff

In the future, the researchers plan to continue their studies – the team would like to investigate this effect in habitual e-cigarette smokers and take a more in-depth look at the potential role of oxidative stress.

The current findings are likely to intensify an already intense debate. The take-home message is that e-cigarettes are less likely to cause cancer, but they are not without their own dangers.

Cancer risk higher in children with inflammatory bowel disease

IBD spelled on post it notes
A new study of people living in Sweden has found that children with inflammatory bowel disease have a higher risk of cancer – especially gastrointestinal cancers – both in childhood and in later life, compared with individuals without the disease.

The international team of researchers, including members of the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, report the findings in the BMJ.

They note that the raised risk of cancer for children with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) carries on into adulthood and has not reduced following the introduction of new ways to manage the disease, such as with biological agents.

They also point out that, while they found a higher relative risk of cancer, the absolute risks are low. Compared with healthy individuals, there was one extra case of cancer for every 556 people with IBD followed for 1 year.

IBD results from chronic inflammation of the gut, or gastrointestinal (GI) tract. It can strike at any age, but most people who are diagnosed are between 15 and 40 years old.

There are two types of IBD: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. While they share some features, there are also some key differences.

For example, in Crohn’s disease, the inflammation affects any region of the GI tract between the mouth and the anus and can occur in all layers of the tissue. In ulcerative colitis, however, the disease affects the colon and the rectum and tends only to occur in the innermost layer of tissue.

IBD is classed as an autoimmune disorder – that is, a disease that arises when the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s own tissue: in this case, the gut.

The exact causes of IBD are still unknown, but scientists suggest that environmental factors might trigger the disease in people whose genetic makeup makes them more susceptible to it.

In the United States, around 3 million people (or 1.3 percent of adults) reported having received a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis in 2015.

A new study of people living in Sweden has found that children with inflammatory bowel disease have a higher risk of cancer – especially gastrointestinal cancers – both in childhood and in later life, compared with individuals without the disease.

The international team of researchers, including members of the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, report the findings in the BMJ.

They note that the raised risk of cancer for children with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) carries on into adulthood and has not reduced following the introduction of new ways to manage the disease, such as with biological agents.

They also point out that, while they found a higher relative risk of cancer, the absolute risks are low. Compared with healthy individuals, there was one extra case of cancer for every 556 people with IBD followed for 1 year.

IBD results from chronic inflammation of the gut, or gastrointestinal (GI) tract. It can strike at any age, but most people who are diagnosed are between 15 and 40 years old.

There are two types of IBD: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. While they share some features, there are also some key differences.

For example, in Crohn’s disease, the inflammation affects any region of the GI tract between the mouth and the anus and can occur in all layers of the tissue. In ulcerative colitis, however, the disease affects the colon and the rectum and tends only to occur in the innermost layer of tissue.

IBD is classed as an autoimmune disorder – that is, a disease that arises when the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s own tissue: in this case, the gut.

The exact causes of IBD are still unknown, but scientists suggest that environmental factors might trigger the disease in people whose genetic makeup makes them more susceptible to it.

In the United States, around 3 million people (or 1.3 percent of adults) reported having received a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis in 2015.

Their analysis included 9,405 people with childhood-onset IBD and 92,870 individuals from the general population matched for birth year, age, sex, and place of residence.

The researchers calculated the risk of cancer in the two groups before the age of 18, before age 25, and over the whole study period – from 1964 to 2014 – up to an average age of 30 years.

After excluding the effect of other factors that might influence the result, the team found 497 first cancers in people with childhood-onset IBD, which is equivalent to a rate of 3.3 per 1,000 person-years. This compared with 2,256 cancers in the matched individuals, which is equivalent to 1.5 per 1,000 person-years.

“This corresponds to one extra case of cancer for every 556 patients with inflammatory bowel disease followed for a year, compared with reference individuals,” they note.

Higher cancer risk persists over time

The team also found that the cancer risk increased in the first year following IBD diagnosis and stayed high over 5 years of follow-up and beyond. This was especially the case for cancers of the colon, rectum, small intestine, and liver.

Risk factors for any cancer linked to childhood-onset IBD included long-standing colitis, chronic liver disease, and a family history of early-onset cancer.

The authors note that they do not rule out that drugs may be a factor in the higher risk of cancer in childhood-onset IBD, but they explain that their study was “not big enough” to assess this.

However, they do suggest that the main driver underlying the higher risk of cancer could be the “extent and duration of chronic inflammation” of the IBD.

They also emphasize that because this was an observational study, it could not determine whether IBD causes cancer.

Nevertheless, the researchers suggest that the study’s biggest strength is the large number of participants. They also outline some weaknesses, such as the fact that they had no information about smoking or about “disease severity, disease extent, or disease behavior.”

They conclude, “Childhood-onset inflammatory bowel disease is associated with an increased risk of any cancer, especially gastrointestinal cancers, both during childhood and later in life. The higher risk of cancer has not fallen over time.”

Much larger studies now needed

In a linked editorial, Susan Hutfless – who is an associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD – acknowledges that people with IBD “worry about developing cancer,” but she urges them and their families “to focus on the very low incidence of cancer in childhood.”

The study “sets an excellent example” of how to investigate the link between IBD and cancer, Prof. Hutfless notes. However, she points out that only very much larger studies can address questions such as whether IBD drugs raise cancer risk, and the best way to go about cancer surveillance in patients with IBD.

She describes the study as a “thoughtful and thorough investigation” and says that it “confirms the need for international collaboration in the study of cancer surveillance” for children diagnosed with IBD.

As the investigators themselves point out, Prof. Hutfless notes that better surveillance of IBD could lead to better detection, earlier diagnosis, and higher reported rates of cancer. “The ultimate goal of surveillance,” she adds, “is of course reduced cancer mortality, an outcome that requires very long follow-up.

Five effective essential oils for headaches

Woman massaging her temples.
Essential oils are used as home remedies for a variety of ailments. But is using essential oils an effective way to relieve headaches, and, if so, which essential oils are best?

An essential oil is a concentrated liquid extracted from a plant. Aromatherapy is an alternative therapy based on the use of these oils. Aromatherapists believe that each essential oil offers a different set of health benefits.

Research supports the health benefits of certain essential oils, while other claims are based on tradition. This article explores five of the best essential oils for treating headaches, as supported by scientific evidence.

Overview

It is estimated that more than half of the adult population worldwide experiences occasional headaches, with the most common type being a tension headache.

While there are a number of over-the-counter and prescription medications available for headaches, these treatments can cause side effects.

When someone experiences headaches regularly, they may look for natural treatments, including essential oils.

Which essential oils help headaches?

There are a number of studies that show specific essential oils may be beneficial for headaches. These include:

1. Lavender oil

Lavender is often used to help people get to sleep and to reduce stress, anxiety, or depression.

Many believe that it can help relieve headaches and migraines that are triggered by stress.

A 2012 study suggests that the inhalation of lavender essential oil can be a safe and effective treatment to manage migraine headaches.

2. Rosemary oil

Rosemary oil is traditionally used to treat headaches and improve circulation.

There are few studies that specifically support rosemary oil as an effective headache treatment. However, a 2008 study suggests that rosemary oil has anti-inflammatory and pain-killing properties.

Another study from 2013 found that rosemary oil helped to reduce pain and insomnia in people going through opium withdrawal treatment.

These research examples suggest that rosemary oil may reduce the pain associated with a headache. However, more studies on humans are required before this can be confirmed.

3. Peppermint oil

Peppermint has been used in alternative medicines for thousands of years. It is one of the most popular essential oils for treating headaches.

A recent 2015 review of published studies on essential oils states that applying peppermint oil to the temples and forehead provides relief from tension headaches.

The active ingredient in peppermint oil is menthol. Research published in 2015 shows menthol may be effective in treating migraines when applied to the head as a gel.

4. Chamomile oil

People traditionally drink chamomile tea to relax and unwind. Chamomile oil is commonly believed to have a similar effect.

Research from 2012 showed that chamomile oil might improve some of the symptoms of anxiety and depression.

As headaches are often caused by stress and anxiety, it follows that chamomile oil may help treat headaches.

There are anti-inflammatory properties in chamomile that may also reduce a headache, but more research is needed into its health benefits.

5. Eucalyptus oil

Eucalyptus is traditionally used to clear sinuses and reduce inflammation. People experiencing headaches due to blocked sinuses may find that inhaling eucalyptus reduces their symptoms.

One study found that eucalyptus oil was effective for relieving pain and lowering blood pressurewhen it was inhaled.

How to use essential oils for headaches

There are a number of different ways that you can use essential oils to treat a headache. These include:

  • Applying oil to the temples or forehead: Essential oils need to be diluted with a carrier oil, such as coconut oil, before they can be applied to the skin. Once diluted, the oil can be massaged into the temples and across the forehead.
  • Inhaling oil: Essential oils can be inhaled by adding a few drops to a tissue, holding the tissue under the nose and breathing deeply.
  • Using a compress: Create a compress by soaking a towel in cold water with a few drops of essential oil. The compress can be applied to the forehead or neck.
  • Adding oil to the bath: Adding a few drops of essential oil to a hot bath can be a relaxing way to treat a headache.

Poliovirus kills off cancer cells, stops tumor regrowth

t cells attacking cancer cells
Researchers from Duke University in Durham, NC, may have discovered a new way of killing off cancer cells.

The team was jointly led by Dr. Matthias Gromeier, a professor in the Department of Neurosurgery, and Prof. Smita Nair, who is an immunologist in the Department of Surgery.

The new research – which is published in the journal Science Translational Medicine – shows how a modified poliovirus enables the body to use its own resources to fight off cancer. The modified virus bears the name of recombinant oncolytic poliovirus (PVS-RIPO).

PVS-RIPO has been in clinical trials since 2011 and preliminary results have offered hope to patients with one of the most aggressive forms of brain tumor: recurrent glioblastoma. So, the researchers set out to investigate more deeply how exactly PVS-RIPO works.

Explaining the rationale behind their research endeavor, Dr. Gromeier says, “Knowing the steps that occur to generate an immune response will enable us to rationally decide whether and what other therapies make sense in combination with poliovirus to improve patient survival.”

Poliovirus attacks tumors, inhibits regrowth

The researchers examined the behavior of the poliovirus in two human cell lines: melanoma and triple-negative breast cancer. They observed that the poliovirus attaches itself to cancerous cells. These cells have an excess of the CD155 protein, which acts as a receptor for the poliovirus.

Then, the poliovirus starts to attack the malignant cells, triggering the release of antigens from the tumor. Antigens are toxic substances that the body does not recognize, therefore setting off an immune attack against them.

So, when the tumor cells release antigens, this alerts the body’s immune system to start attacking. At the same time, the poliovirus infects the dendritic cells and macrophages.

Dendritic cells are cells whose role it is to process antigens and “present” them to T cells, which are a type of immune cell. Macrophages are another type of immune cell – namely, large white blood cells whose main role is to rid our bodies of debris and toxic substances.

The cell culture results – which the researchers then verified in mouse models – showed that once PVS-RIPO infects the dendritic cells, these cells “tell” T cells to start the immune attack.

Once started, this process seems to be continuously successful. The cancer cells continue to be vulnerable to the immune system’s attack over a longer period of time, which appears to stop the tumor from regrowing.

As Prof. Nair explains, “Not only is poliovirus killing tumor cells, it is also infecting the antigen-presenting cells, which allows them to function in such a way that they can now raise a T cell response that can recognize and infiltrate a tumor.”

This is an encouraging finding, because it means the poliovirus stimulates an innate inflammatory response.”

Prof. Smita Nair

Speaking to Medical News Today about the clinical implications of the findings and the scientists’ directions for future research, Dr. Gromeier said, “Our findings provide clear rationales for moving forward with clinical trials in breast cancer, prostate cancer, and malignant melanoma.”

“This includes novel combination treatments that we will pursue,” he added.

More specifically, he explains, because the study revealed that after treatment with the poliovirus “immune checkpoints are increased on immune cells,” a future strategy the researchers plan to explore is “[oncolytic] poliovirus combined with immune checkpoint blockade.”

How to try the ‘fasting diet’ in a healthy way, according to a nutritionist

Some benefits to fasting are that it can help establish a routine for your body and improve your skin. If you want to do it, though, you should do it as a lifestyle change not a crash diet

The benefits of restricting calories on health and extending life span are well established.

Fasting has been used for thousands of years for spiritual and health benefits and has become popular in recent times due to the celebrity endorsement of intermittent fasting, aka the ‘5:2 diet’!

Although dietary advice has long focused on eating regular low-fat meals, intermittent fasting and the 5:2’s counterintuitive approach to weight loss has attracted thousands of women and men.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?

It can improve glucose tolerance 

Insulin resistance is generally caused as a result of the body’s reduced ability to remove excess glucose from the blood either because insufficient insulin is released or the glucose receptors have become less sensitive.

Excess glucose will be converted to fat and stored in tissues not suitable for fat storage.

As the body uses fat as a fuel during intermittent fasting, fat stores will reduce allowing the cells to regain insulin function and glucose sensitivity.

Studies show that intermittent fasting can improve many health parameters especially in pre-diabetic and insulin resistant people, where a caloric restriction can avoid the need to use medication.

Further findings also suggest that short term intermittent fasting may be a safe and tolerable dietary intervention for those already diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes and may improve body weight and fasting glucose levels.

It helps to establish a routine

Although it can be difficult to establish a new way of eating in conjunction with family or work commitments at the outset, once you’ve developed a plan that works, tweaking and adjusting to suit your lifestyle, it’ll soon simply become the way you eat, in terms of timings and good quality meal choices.

Understanding your body’s genuine hunger signals and not confusing them with cravings often associated with the consumption of too many processed foods will give you greater understanding of your body and improve your confidence to maintain healthy habits.

Having a regular routine, with strict eating times, can simplify your day to day life especially if you’re feeling good for it.

It improves your skin health

Many skin conditions can be alleviated by eating a good quality diet, high in vegetables and fiber and avoiding processed foods.

To ensure adequate nutrients with intermittent fasting, you will need to avoid these pro-inflammatory foods that offer little nutritive value and in doing so, you will reduce inflammation, often associated with skin conditions such as acne and eczema.

Furthermore, if you suspect your skin condition is exacerbated by a specific food sensitivity or intolerance, eliminating this food during a fast will offer you the opportunity to re-introduce a food one at a time afterwards, to establish if it is the culprit.

It makes you more resistance to health conditions

Intermittent fasting’s ability to reduce weight will result in lower body fat.

This has further benefits to many health outcomes including improving heart function, helping to prevent cancer and generally improved immune health.

It will help you focus

Being in control of regulating your food intake also makes you more aware of your body.

This deepened sense of understanding and connection can help reduce stress and anxiety and allow you to have a clear mind to focus.

HOW YOU CAN MAKE FASTING WORK FOR YOU

Intermittent fasting should be viewed as a long term lifestyle choice rather than a crash diet.

Otherwise, it is likely that you will regain any weight lost if you resume your original eating habits.

It is also essential that you make healthy food choices; ensuring good nutrition is vital when fasting to ensure the body’s processes are taking place efficiently and effectively.

Thus, planning your meals to make sure you are getting adequate nutrients is very important.

There are two ways to successfully achieve this pattern of eating:

The daily approach

The simple concept is to aim to fast every day for 16-18 hours a day and only consume your food in the remaining six to eight hours.

For example, if you eat your evening meal at 6pm, then you would not eat your next meal until at least 12pm the following day, allowing an 18-hour fast in between.

The weekly approach

This suggests that you eat normally five days a week and diet two, preferably consecutive, days a week, reducing your calorie intake for those two days to a quarter of their normal level (500 calories for women, 600 for men).

As long as you avoid bingeing for five days and starving for the other two, evidence suggests this can be effective as part of a longer-term weight management strategy.

Start gradually

To start with, increase the gap between dinner and breakfast.

If you’re not hungry you could skip breakfast altogether; going from dinner to lunch works best.

Consider the ideal ratio of 16:8 hours, this means you’d be eating a lower-calorie but nutrient dense diet within the eight-hour window.

Typically, this would be from midday until 8pm.

Spread this over two meals and then fast until lunch the following day.

Repeat this routine at least two to three times per week.

If you feel hungry any time outside of the eight-hour window, distract yourself with an activity or task so that you’re not so aware of the hunger pangs.

Factoring in a daily brisk walk will help to speed up your metabolism and maintain muscle mass.

If you’re opting for the weekly approach, do not fast for longer than three days in a row to avoid a significant reduction in your metabolism and to protect against muscle loss.

If you’ve embarked on this approach on a long-term basis, including a cheat day every now and again is not a problem.

WHO SHOULD NOT FAST

1. People who are underweight

Restricting calories may result in further weight loss.

2. Children

Their nutrient and energy requirements are different to adults and fasting may not allow a child to thrive.

3. Pregnant or breast feeding mothers

Pregnancy is a time to ensure good nutrients and adequate calories for a growing baby.

4. If you have an eating disorder

Even if you have struggled with an eating disorder in the past, you may find adopting an eating pattern that restricts food may trigger a relapse.

5. If you’re recovering from surgery

Restricting nutrient intake and energy production may impair repair after surgery.

6. If you are feeling unwell or have a fever

It is important to listen to your body and avoid fasting if your body is not in optimal health.

7. If you are taking any prescribed medications, Type 1 diabetics and diabetics on insulin

It is essential to consult with your GP before embarking on any weight loss program.

The benefits of walking simply putting one foot in front of the other is all it takes to improve mood

The act of walking - irrespective of where we do it, why we do it and who we do it with - was shown to lift mood (file photo)

The mere act of putting one foot in front of the other for a few minutes can significantly boost our mood, a study has discovered.

And it doesn’t matter where we do it, why we do it, who we do it with, or what effect we expect the walk to have.

Psychologists say the happiness-causing effects arise from the actual physical movement which is connected to how we evolved to move to find food and other rewards.

The researchers say their study is the first to show this by stripping away all the many factors associated with exercise – such as getting fresh air, being in nature and the satisfaction of reaching fitness goals.

Essentially, ‘movement not only causes increased positive affect [emotional feelings] … but movement partially embodies, or in a sense reflects, positive affect,’ the study authors from The Iowa State University wrote in the paper published in the journal Emotion.

How the research was carried out 

Across three studies, the team tested hundreds of undergraduate students who were not aware of the true aims of the research to avoid biased answers.

Two of the studies showed that students who spent 12 minutes on a group walking tour of campus buildings, or on a dull walking tour on their own of the interior of a campus building, reported more positive mood.

This was compared to another group who sat and looking at photographs of the same campus tour, or watched a video of the same building interior tour.

In a second study, positive mood effects were also found even when researchers induced ‘dread’ in the participants before their walk, by instructing them that after the walk they had to write a two-page essay afterwards.

In the final study, students spent 10 minutes watching a Saatchi Gallery video alone, one, in three groups who were either sitting, standing or walking on a treadmill.

Once again, at the end, the students who’d spent time walking reported more positive mood scores than those who had been sitting or standing.

Authors Jeffrey Miller and Zlatan Krizan wrote: ‘People may underestimate the extent to which just getting off their couch and going for a walk will benefit their mood as they focus on momentarily perceived barriers rather than eventual mood benefits.’