Sugar cut backed by supermarkets

In a surprising twist major UK supermarket chains are now supporting laws to force 50% cuts in sugar content. Foods that are being targeted include fizzy drinks, sweets, biscuits and cakes. Previously the same supermarkets have argued against legal controls on sugar, but in this surprising u-turn they appear to be joining forces with health campaigners. If the 50% sugar cut is to go ahead it will create a radical change to the current British diet. The law would require sugar to be cut or changes to be made in portion size with measures instituted over time to allow consumers to acclimate to less sweet tastes. Public Health England has estimated that cutting sugar by 50% could reduce the amount consumed by children aged 11-18 by over 6 teaspoons, around 30g of sugar per day. Whilst the obesity epidemic requires a more multi-factorial nutritional focus, dramatically reducing sugar consumption is an extremely positive move. ANH-Intl has long been campaigning for a reduction in sugar consumption, and our Food4Health plate offers clear eating guidelines to promote maximum metabolic flexibility.

Dark chocolate can boost endurance and performance

Cyclists looking to increase their endurance and performance may have to look no further than dark chocolate according to the latest research. Eating 40g of flavanol-rich dark chocolate significantly improved aspects of cardiorespiratory fitness and endurance capacity when compared to baseline levels, and white chocolate. Time trial distances following dark chocolate consumption were also higher, leading the authors to conclude that “ingestion of dark chocolate for 14 days reduced the oxygen cost of moderate intensity exercise and may be an effective ergogenic aid”. Studies have also previously shown benefits for skin and brain health derived from dark chocolate.

Glyphosate to be ditched

The world’s most sold weed killer - glyphosate is already banned or restricted in France, Holland, Denmark and Sweden, and now city bosses in Scotland are looking to phase it out entirely. Glyphosate is a ‘probable carcinogen according to the WHO, but city councils in Scotland currently spray around 4,700 litres of it annually. The weed killer, used to kill invasive or pest plants, will go through a trial ban in 2 areas with a report on future use expected in March 2016. The report will present alternative options and their costings, confirmed city leaders. Chas Booth, a green councilor said, “We should obviously be extremely concerned about the public health impact of the chemicals we are using…I’m very glad the council has made a pretty firm commitment that will look at alternatives to these chemicals

Hershey opts out of GM sugar beet

American confectionary company the Hershey Co. have moved away from sugar beet in their products in an attempt to win-round anti-GM consumers. Nearly 100% of sugar beet produced in the US has been modified to withstand spraying with glyphosate. Hershey has a long history of using sugar made from beets, which it will now stop buying. However communications director, Jeff Beckman, said the decision had nothing to do with the safety of GM sugar beet. The decision is a significant one for the sugar beet industry, as Hershey’s 80 brands created sales of $7.4 billion in 2014 so their business will be a heavy loss. Hershey expects to be 100% GM free by the end of 2016.

Black raspberries have great health potential

Black raspberries – closely related to red raspberries and blackberries – may have greater health benefits than other berries according to new research. The study looked at the phenolic and anthocyanin content in berries to assess their antioxidant content. Lead author Dr Anna Molgorzata Kostecka-Gugala said, “We hope the latest worldwide studies on the black raspberry will be helpful in terms of popularisation of this exceptional species”. Antioxidant levels are three times higher in black raspberries compared to other studied fruits and were also found to contain compounds that boost heart health.

Venezuela bans GM seed

In one of his last moves as President of Venezuela the out-going President Nicolas Maduro has banned GM seed and protected native seed from privatisation. This law is one of the most progressive in the world regarding GMOs, with Maduro saying it allows agriculture to be most respectful of the environment, leaving a healthy planet for the next generation. This law is a victory for the people of Venezuela, many of whom support the ban on GM crops with multiple grassroots organisations involved in the drafting of the law. It is this participatory nature of the law, as well as it’s wording that makes it so uncommon, and is why these local movements are already emphasising that now is the time to push it into full implementation and defend it against possible backlash.

Vitamin D supplements could treat MS

It has previously been shown that low vitamin D levels in the blood can increase risk of MS, but a new study has shown that supplements can also be used as treatment for the condition. Vitamin D supplements at high levels reduced the effect of the immune system, which, in MS sufferers, destroys the fatty sheath around nerve fibres leading to numbness and eventually paralysis. In the study some MS patients were given levels of vitamin D higher than the recommended daily allowance, this group went on to see reduced activity of cells related to MS activity. Patients given lower vitamin D doses did not see this reduction. An estimated 100,000 people in the UK suffer from MS so the new study could go some way into providing low-cost and simple treatment for them. Another new study has also shown that low sun exposure (and therefore low vitamin D) is linked to earlier onset of MS.

New Atlantic marine reserve given the go-ahead

The creation of a new marine wildlife reserve has been confirmed in an area of the Atlantic known for its wildlife diversity, near the British Overseas Territory of Ascension. The reserve will be almost the size of the UK and is home to one of the biggest populations of green turtles in the world as well as bird colonies and large fish species. The reserve will be 90,460 square miles in total, with half totally free of fishing. The remaining half will allow fishing under heavily controlled conditions. The addition to protected areas bring the marine total to 2% of world oceans, still well short of the 20-30% recommended by scientists to preserve fish stocks, but a great step for conservation nonetheless. Charles Clover, Executive Chairman of the Blue Marine Foundation said, “Ascension has been at the frontier of science since Charles Darwin went there in the 19th century, so it is entirely appropriate that it is now at the centre of a great scientific effort to design the Atlantic’s largest marine reserve”.