Sun avoiders twice as likely to die as sun lovers

A new Swedish study recently published in the Journal of Internal Medicine followed 30,000 women over a period of 20 years, having recorded detailed information about their sun habits at the start of the study.  The Karolinska Institute researchers found that, among those who avoided sun exposure, twice as many women died from all causes over the period compared with those having the highest sun exposure.

The study has huge implications for public health, and the authors have stressed that “restrictive sun exposure advice in countries with low solar intensity might not be beneficial to women's health”.  Sunlight exposure stimulates vitamin D production in the body, and there is a growing body of evidence that strongly suggests that adequate levels are protective against ill health and a vast range of diseases.

BMJ study reveals vaccine failing to prevent whooping cough

A study recently published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) observed “a significant burden of illness” (20%) associated with whooping cough (pertussis) among UK children of school age who visited their primary care provider for persistent cough.  The researchers added that this was “even after implementation of the preschool pertussis booster vaccination and despite high levels of vaccination coverage”; coverage was 90% for the vaccination, and 80% for the pre-school booster.  Even after noting that pertussis "can still manifest as clinically significant cough in fully vaccinated children", the researchers suggest that a further booster vaccination of school children at the age of 14 “may be the most efficient way of ensuring high vaccination coverage”.

US HIV vaccine researcher arrested for faking results

The BMJ has reported that a former researcher at Iowa State University is facing a felony charge for faking positive results of an HIV vaccine study and “earning millions in US federal grants”.  The Office of Research Integrity and a university inquiry found that assistant professor, Dong-Pyou Han, “added human and rabbit HIV antibodies to rabbit serum samples to make it appear that an experimental HIV vaccine had stimulated a broad immune response.  He also altered data files to convey the same impression and reported false results to his colleagues”.  These results were hailed as groundbreaking at seven symposia between 2010 and 2102, but other researchers were unable to replicate the findings.

BBC journalists must exclude views critical of mainstream science

It’s being reported that BBC journalists are being sent on courses to teach them that ‘marginal views’ or ‘false balance’ on mainstream or ‘non-contentious’ scientific topics should not be aired.  Last week, the BBC Trust published a progress report about science coverage, which found an “‘over-rigid application of editorial guidelines on impartiality’ which sought to give the ‘other side’ of the argument, even if that viewpoint was widely dismissed”.  The authors are reported to have written: “Science coverage does not simply lie in reflecting a wide range of views but depends on the varying degree of prominence such views should be given”.  This development is eerily similar to attempts in Australia to suppress discussions around vaccination.  Doubtless, we can expect to see this spurious and unscientific justification deployed in the UK to shut down convversations on this and other controversial topics like GMOs. 

Scientists, organisations and celebrities move against fracking

150 scientists, celebrities, organisations and celebrities have come together and are calling for a debate on fracking.  The list includes Nobel Laureate in Chemistry Professor Sir Harold Kroto FRS, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, actress Helena Bonham-Carter, Paul McCartney and Sir Tim Smit KBE of the Eden Project.

Bianca Jagger of the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation has made an urgent video warning about the ‘destructive’ consequences for our way of life, our water and our countryside from UK government policy on fracking.  In it, she appeals for sanity over proposed changes to UK law to accommodate extensive fracking plans.  Yoko Ono also made a very public appeal to resist fracking at the beginning of her performance at the recent music festival at Glastonbury in the UK.

Will the government support a sugar tax?

Experts and campaign groups alike believe a tax on sugar would be a good idea with regard to the obesity crisis, but are concerned that the government won't support or implement it.  Graham MacGregor, professor of cardiovascular medicine at the Wolfston Institute of Preventative Medicine, spoke recently about the positive impact taxing sugary drinks in France has had, and also mentioned that Mexico has now imposed a sugar tax.  He is adamant that “…duties work...If you look at cigarettes, look at alcohol, the higher the tax, the lower the consumption.”  However, Barbara Gallani, director of regulatory affairs, science and health at the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), doesn’t share MacGregor’s pro-tax views.  In her opinion, taxes in other countries “…have not been particularly succesful...the food industry has successfully bought down salt content in foods…and is willing to make a difference.”  For us, the best approach to tackling the obesity epidemic is an educational one, replacing the present wrong-headed official advice with health information that works.  Our new initiative Bite the Sun is a perfect example of this philosophy in action.

France boosts food supplements market by adopting BELFRIT list

In a move that will likely improve the drive toward EU botanical harmony, France has decided to adopt 60% of the 1000-strong BELFRIT list.  BELFRIT is a positive list of botanicals that is the result of a joint project between researchers from Belgium, France and Italy.  Thomas Pauquai, head of health claims and food safety at French consultancy, Nutraveris, believes the BELFRIT list is important to France and other countries as it clears up the confusing situation of multiple positive and negative lists.

Jerome Burne reveals pharma’s preferred model for Alzheimer’s

In another great 'HealthInsight UK' article, Jerome Burne tackles the issue of Alzheimer's disease.  He sets out evidence revealing that relatively inexpensive lifestyle changes and high-dose B-vitamin therapy can have immediate effects in reducing risk, whereas expensive drug treatments cannot.  He also reveals pharma's disinterest in and disinformation around these potentially helpful preventative treatments, in their quest to find profitable drugs "for as many people as possible for as long as possible" – the preferred pharma model.

Burne concludes: "The fact that those supposedly fighting the scourge of Alzheimer’s can not only ignore good evidence for the effectiveness of prevention but then try very incompetently to discredit the one approach that has a good randomised trial supporting it should make anyone personally involved with Alzheimer’s alarmed and angry".