UK Bill for mass medication with folic acid

A UK Billto amend the Bread and Flour Regulations 1998 to require flour to be fortified with folic acid is making its way through Parliament”. The Bread and Flour Regulations (Folic Acid) Bill [HL] 2016-2017 had a second reading in the House of Lords on the 8th July 2016, and will next pass to the Committee stage. The passing of this Bill will make Britain the first European country to follow America’s lead with another form of “mass medication”. Whilst folic acid is commonly used to ensure that pregnant women get adequate levels of folate for the prevention of neural tube defects in their offspring, there has been increasing concern about the use of this synthetic form of the vitamin. Of major concern is the risk of unmetabolised folic acid oxidising freely in the bloodstream of those unable to metabolise it effectively. Single nucleotide polymorphisms render around 40% of the population vulnerable to abnormalities in their methylation pathway. There is also a danger that folic acid supplementation may mask the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency. The indiscriminate addition of synthetic folic acid to flour constitutes medication on a mass scale with no ability to regulate dosage — much in the same way as fluoridation of the water supply.

Call for suspension of HPV vaccine in Columbia

In Colombia, the Attorney General’s Office has appealed to the Constitutional Court, “…asking for enforcement of a previous ruling issued by the High Court of Cali, requiring the Ministry of Health to suspend the HPV vaccination program in Colombia”. The ruling was called for because the side effects of the vaccine are deemed, “significantly detrimental”, to the health of patients receiving it. The Attorney General’s Office said, “A medical analysis should be conducted to determine whether or not the HPV vaccine represents a danger to the health of the women who receive it, stating that until this is completed, the court should suspend the application of the vaccine in girls with a history of autoimmune diseases”.

Meanwhile, in the US State of Pennsylvania, the Allegheny County Health Department and Board of Health are trying to mandate the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine for all 7th grade (12-14 years) students. Residents are urged to take action as suggested by the National Vaccine Information Centre.

Energy drink ‘alertness boost’ claims vetoed by European Parliament

The European Parliament has vetoed the European Commission’s plans to, “Allow claims that sugary drinks and energy drinks containing caffeine boost ‘alertness’ or ‘concentration’”. The Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) resolution stated that, “Displaying these claims on drinks cans would have led to higher sugar consumption among adolescents, who are the largest group of energy drink consumers”. Lead MEP Christel Schaldemose (S&D, DK) said, "So it's not just the caffeine, it's also that energy drinks contain a lot of sugar too… We're not going to say that adults should not drink coffee or energy drinks. We just don't want to [help companies] to earn a lot of money on a health claim that we think is not suited for young kids”. MEPs say, “A 250ml can of energy drink can contain up to 27g of sugar and 80mg of caffeine,” and they note that, “energy drinks have been linked to headaches, sleep problems and behavioural problems in children and adolescents who consume them regularly”.

Monsanto’s ‘solution’ to Superweeds

The rise in Superweeds, a result of Monsanto’s best selling herbicide, Round Up, is becoming an ever-increasing issue. Monsanto’s solution? An even stronger weed killer to go with their genetically modified seeds. The bioengineering giant has paired up with rival seed company, DuPont, to sign a multi-year supply agreement for the weed killer Dicamba in the US and Canada.

Australia covers up WiFi risks

Catalyst is the only science show aired on prime time TV in Australia. When ABC aired the show’s “Wi-Fried?” episode in which Dr Devra Davis boldly quoted, “Every single well-designed study ever conducted finds an increased risk of brain cancer with the heaviest users [of mobile phones], and the range of the risk is between 50% to eightfold. That’s a fact”. Her words sparked an immediate review into whether the program was misleading and in breach of ABC’s impartiality guidelines. “The ABC broadcast[ed] a correction - which said an internal investigation had found the program unduly favored the unorthodox perspective that wireless devices and Wi-Fi pose significant health risks.”

Zika & Microcephaly link doubtful

A new paper recently published questions the link between the Zika virus and Microcephaly. It draws on the idea that, “if Zika is the culprit, why are there no similar epidemics in other countries also hit hard by the virus?” In Brazil, the rate of microcephaly rose to more than 1,500 confirmed cases, whereas in Colombia, an area also affected by the virus, studies have found no cases of the condition. The authors of the study have called for further research into the potential link between the chemical Pyriproxyfen and this life changing condition.

Is there a positive to thumb sucking?

Recent research published in the journal Pediatrics suggests that, “Children who suck their thumb or bite their nails are less likely to develop allergies”. The authors of the study have said the explanation for this lies in the hygiene hypothesis, where it is assumed that exposure to germs both educates and strengthens the body’s immune system. Co-researcher, Prof Malcolm Sears, from McMaster University, in Canada, said, "While we don't recommend that these habits should be encouraged, there does appear to be a positive side to these habits.".