Coca-Cola’s dubious funding of ‘pro-sugar’ research

After finding itself the subject of negative press for funding the likes of the European Hydration Institute, the British Nutrition Foundation, higher education, the National Obesity Forum and others, Coca-Cola has promised to be more open about their funding in future. Timely or long overdue considering the most recent exposé of Coca Cola fuelled dollars behind Simon Singh’s charity, Sense About Science? It appears that Singh’s outfit may not be as scientifically squeaky clean as they would profess given their adamant rebuttals against recent science demonstrating the negative health effects from processed. The UK’s Daily Mirror reported on a study showing that, Industry funding of nutrition-related scientific articles may bias conclusions in favor of sponsors' products.” In short, experts will find no link between sugary drinks and obesity if they are sponsored by the food and drink industry. Coca-Cola states, “We rely on scientific research to make decisions about our products and ingredients and commission independent third parties to carry out this work. We also believe we have a role to play in helping tackle obesity and have made public commitments to do so.” All well and good, but they avoid mentioning that they’re usually funding the research or the organisations responsible for communicating the findings.

Illegitimate pesticides lead to 2/3 of cotton crop destroyed

Unusually high levels of whitefly in the Punjab region of India have devastated cotton crops, leading to the loss of over £400 million and 15 distraught farmers committing suicide. Compensation offers have been rejected as ‘peanuts’. However neighbouring farms using biofertilisers and non-chemical fertilisers have not been affected, with their cotton yield twice that of pesticide-using farms. There are numerous theories as to what could have saved the years cotton crops. The pesticide treated cotton has suffered particularly badly because of resistance in the whitefly to the pesticides and the indiscriminate spraying, which has also wiped out its natural predators, including spiders. By contrast, in the unsprayed cotton the natural enemy complex is able to better regulate the whitefly populations. Additionally, natural varieties of cotton are also less affected by whitefly compared to GM strains such as Bt cotton, which is grown to be resistant to some pests. In a final twist the Punjab director of agriculture has been arrested along with several pesticide dealers, amongst claims of spurious pesticides making up 15% of sales and fears of the damage spreading to other crops.

Thousands protest against TTIP

Saturday 10th October saw thousands of people come together in Berlin to protest against the massive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Among the protestors were trade unions, environmental groups, NGOs and anti-globalisation groups — all concerned that the trade deal will benefit large corporations at the expense of average Europeans. It’s been described as the largest German protest in recent years with around 250,000 consumer rights activists. Michael Mueller, president of the ecological organisation German Friends of Nature, said, “We are here because we do not want to leave the future to markets, but on the contrary to save democracy.” The level of resistance has surprised Chancellor Angela Merkel and her government. Watch a video clip of the march.

Montgomery, Maryland becomes the first major council in the US to ban pesticide use on lawns

The local government of Montgomery in Maryland, close to Washington DC, has succeeded in passing a law prohibiting the use of unnecessary pesticides on lawns and gardens by 2018. The council voted 6-3 votes in favour, but only after some large concessions. The exclusion of sports fields (of which there are some 300 in Montgomery) from regulations was the most contentious, however five pilot fields using only organic products will be trialled with plans for all playing fields to be pesticide free by 2020. The law also does not ban the sale of pesticides and golf courses, agricultural land and spraying for invasive species are all exempt. The result is a triumph for the citizen action group Safe Grow Montgomery who worked with a coalition of national organisations to push for stronger protection against these chemicals. The campaign began in response to what they saw as improper regulation by the government after a 2013 report by the Government Accountability Office and Natural Resource Defence Council showed thousands of pesticides had been approved without full testing and many had associations with cancer. This type of law is controversial in the US, with 43 states banning their local governments from taking action on pesticides. Councillor Navarro recounted how her father had died of cancer after working in a chemical-rich environment. After the result she said, “This bill will set national standards for reducing pesticide use and creating a safer, cleaner environment.”

EC launches a consultation into EU legislation on health claims

Eight years after the much-debated regulations on botanical health checks and nutrient profiles for food able to bear health claims became EU law, the EC is looking to discover whether these laws were “fit for purpose” and if they “have achieved their overall objectives”. In 2016 stakeholders will have eight weeks to give their input and the public will be given a twelve-week period to respond to a questionnaire contributing to the EC’s findings. The European Federation of Associations of Health Product Manufacturers (EHPM) has welcomed the move that they hope will stop food being assessed in the same way as drugs.

New exercise signaling blueprint could lead to exercise pill

German researchers have explored the exercise-signaling network within human skeletal muscle, and produced a blueprint that could eventually lead to an exercise drug. The research was recently published in Cell metabolism. The researchers undertook “a global analysis of protein phosphorylation in human skeletal muscle biopsies from untrained healthy males before and after a single high-intensity exercise bout, revealing 1,004 unique exercise-regulated phosphosites on 562 proteins. These included substrates of known exercise-regulated kinases (AMPK, PKA, CaMK, MAPK, mTOR)”. The researchers performed a “targeted in vitro AMPK screen and employed machine learning to predict exercise-regulated AMPK substrates” and “validated eight predicted AMPK substrates, including AKAP1”. An undescribed role was revealed “for AMPK-dependent phosphorylation of AKAP1 in mitochondrial respiration”. The authors said “These data expose the unexplored complexity of acute exercise signaling and provide insights into the role of AMPK in mitochondrial biochemistry”. The lead author of the research, Dr Nolan Hoffman recently told Quartz “We’ve created an exercise blueprint that lays the foundation for future treatments, and the end goal is to mimic the effects of exercise… It’s long been thought that there were many signals elicited by exercise, but we were the first to create this map and we now know the complexity”.

‘Remarkable’ new book ‘The Cancer Whisperer’ should shake up attitudes to cancer

Jerome Burne’s recent HealthInsightUK blog emphasises just how important attitude is to recovery from cancer. This is both in regard to the individual cancer experience, as well as to the delivery and range of patient care options (including CAM treatments). Sophie Sabbage’s new book ‘The Cancer Whisperer’ receives accolades from Burne, who describes the book as being “remarkable”, and “beautifully written”. Having been diagnosed just over a year ago with terminal cancer, she is now “beating the odds”. Sophie tackles subjects such as why she rejects the idea of ‘war on cancer’ and why seeing cancer as the enemy prevents “listening to what cancer has to teach us”, and effectively shuts off the chance of “reconciliation or peace”. Instead she prefers to see cancer as a voyage of discovery and a chance to end ‘violence’ to the body, instead providing it the nurturing it needs. In the extract highlighted by Burne, Sophie also stresses her need for being in control of her own choices, rather than simply submitting to the decisions of her care providers: “I knew it was vital for me to make my own choices on every step of this journey, to schedule my treatments around my life not my life around my treatments, to be the author and the protagonist of my story… This book is for the cancer patient who wants to remain a dignified, empowered human being”.

HPV vaccine further ‘condemned’

Concordia’s professor Geneviève Rail has called for a moratorium on the use of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine, after reportedly being awarded almost $300,000 by the Canadian Institute for Health Research (CIHR), to study the vaccine. Rail is described as a “Montreal social scientist”, and her research is entitled “For a moratorium on the HPV vaccine/Pour un moratoire sur le vaccin HPV”. She, along with the supporting federal agency, are said to be facing criticism after her condemnation of the vaccine, and reportedly saying there is no proof that HPV directly causes cervical cancer. Rail and co-author Abby Lippman “published an op-ed article in Le Devoir newspaper questioning the safety and benefits of human papillomavirus vaccines, and urging Quebec to halt HPV immunization until its alleged dangers are independently investigated”.

Meanwhile on the other side of the pond in Ireland, Senator Paschal Mooney, a Fianna Fáil politician, raised the matter of HPV vaccine injuries in the Irish National Parliament (Oireachtas) Seanad Éireann (the Senate). Having met with the Irish Gardasil injury support group R.E.G.R.E.T, Senator Paschal spoke of girls being “confined to their beds” and said “the medical profession are protecting the pharmaceutical companies by denying there are any side effects”. In the UK, articles questioning HPV vaccines have recently been published in Kent and Manchester local media.