Financial ties between researchers and Big Pharma raise concerns

In a recent press release the British Medical Journal (BMJ) have said what many have been thinking. When it comes to financial ties between researchers and the drug industry, it does work in Big Pharma’s favour. “Trials authored by principle investigators with financial ties to drug manufacturers were more likely than other trials to report favorable results”. As The BMJ explained, “Relationships with industry are common among investigators of randomised clinical trials - raising concerns about the effect that financial ties may have on the evidence base”.

Monsanto try dumping their GM seeds on Nigeria

Monsanto have been trying to dump their Genetically Modified (GM) seeds on Nigeria, but the country is fighting back. Over 14 million farmers from Nigeria’s Farmers Alliance have called on all farmers to reject the GM seeds. In a letter to the UN Security Council the body also called for intervention to stop the United Nation’s World Food Program and the World Bank from using their international status to spread Monsanto and Cargill’s GM seeds through Africa. Find out more on GM crops, and why we need to take a stand.

A new lease of life for Statins?

Statins, a drug pushed hard by Big Pharma globally and marketed as a cure for lowering the risk of heart attack and stroke, has enjoyed a wealth of negative press related to adverse side effects. Not keen to consign their ‘cash cow’ to the pharma bin, statins are now taking on a new guise, that of a potential magic bullet in the battle against cancer. Researchers at the University of Kansas Medical Centre found that in high doses, the drugs destroy a rogue protein produced by a damaged gene, that is associated with almost half of all human cancers. Watch this space.

New links between IBD and gut microbiome

A mouse study from the Institute of Food Research has uncovered a new mechanism linking bacteria in the gut to Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Researchers found that, “Certain bacteria release molecules that interact with the lining of the gut to influence a process known as epithelial cell shedding”, which is vital in maintaining a healthy gut lining. In IBD patients, however, this shedding happens more rapidly than the cells can be replaced. Lower levels of bifidobacteria and impaired gut barrier function is associated with IBD patients, but this study shows that these bacteria also interact with a protein in the gut lining that controls the inflammatory process, damaging networks that lead to cell shedding in mice. Whilst this is a mouse model, it does hold the promise of beneficial treatment for human IBD patients using B. breve in particular.

Antibiotics cause e-coli bacteria to mutate and grow 4x quicker than normal

A new study has found that E. coli bacteria exposed to antibiotics not only became antibiotic resistant (as expected), but increased their resistance with each subsequent treatment. However, researchers were surprised to find the mutated E. coli reproduced faster than before and formed populations that were three times larger due to the mutations, than before they were exposed to antibiotics. They also confirmed that once the mutations had taken place the bacteria did not change back once antibiotics were removed.

Improved gut health prolongs survival rate in ALS

More and more evidence is emerging linking imbalances in our gut microbiome (bacterial community) and the development of chronic disease. In a new mouse study mice bred to develop Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, (you may remember this from the Ice Bucket Challenge) which is a progressive, usually fatal, neuromuscular disease that attacks the nerve cells that control voluntary muscles, had abnormal gut microbiomes and damaged tight junctions (gateways in the gut wall). Both of which can lead to gut permeability (leaky gut). Researchers gave the mice butyrate (a short chain fatty acid produced by bacterial fermentation of fibre in the gut), which improved both the health of their gut microbiome and improved gut integrity (stopped the tight junctions opening when they shouldn't). This in turn improved neuromuscular function, delayed the onset of ALS symptoms and increased the lifespan of the mice. This is yet another indication that a healthy diet, which supports a healthy gut microbiome can reduce your chances of developing chronic disease. Find out more about healthy eating via our Food4Health Guidelines.

US regulators knew mercury in vaccines unsafe since 1999

A report by Robert F Kennedy Jr has revealed documents that show the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) knew as far back as 1999, that children were being exposed to levels of mercury far in excess of all federal safety guidelines through vaccination. In 1997 the FDA was required to make a list of all drugs that contained mercury compounds. At the time manufacturers reported that more than 30 licensed vaccines contained the mercury based preservative, thimerosal. On calculating the amount of mercury in the vaccines given to babies it was found that a six month old infant would have received 187.5mg of mercury if they had followed the recommended CDC vaccine schedule. The Thimerosal Fact sheet states that mercury levels are judged to be safe between 0.7ug/kg bodyweight/week and 3.3 ug/kg of body weight/week. Rather than ordering the immediate removal of thimerosal the FDA concealed the findings and to this day there are still vaccines that contain this dangerous preservative, yet the contents of vaccines are not disclosed to parents.

EU Governments reject GMO

Last week EU governments opposed proposals from the European Commission to authorise the cultivation of the first GM new crops (two strains of GM maize) and the re-authorisation of a GM maize that has been grown in Europe since 1998, but they did not achieve the required majority for the proposal to be completely thrown out. Mute Schimpf, food campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe said, "The European Commission has failed to get political support for GM crops since the biotech industry first tried to push them through in 1998. President Juncker promised to make decisions about GM crops more democratic, and so it is now time for the Commission to reject them once and for all. This saga is distracting us from the real debate we need on how we make farming resilient to climate change, save family farms and stop the destruction of nature. It's time to close our countryside to GM crops and move on."

Fecal transplants may help autistic children

People diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) often experience gastrointestinal (gut) problems, which coincide with the severity of their condition. Findings from a small study of 18 children diagnosed with ASD have found that using fecal transplants (FMT) changed their gut microbiome, which in turn improved gut function and reduced behavioural symptoms associated with ASD. These improvements lasted for eight weeks following the FMT treatment, which suggests there could be a long-term benefit from this treatment. The study opens the way for more research into this area as a potential treatment to alleviate symptoms associated with ASD. However, FMT is still in its infancy as a treatment due to the variability in the microbial communities in the gut, which changes constantly.

Low levels of B12 associated with premature birth

A recent in-depth study of 11,216 pregnant women from 11 countries has concluded that, “Low levels of vitamin B12 are associated with an increased risk of preterm birth”. The vitamin is an essential nutrient found only in products of animal origin such as meat, eggs and milk. The researchers found that, “In countries where vegetarian diets predominate - the percentage of pregnant women with B12 deficiency can exceed two thirds”, although it is important to say that, “B12 deficiency is not common in vegetarians who consume dairy products or eggs, because they can easily meet the recommended B12 intakes through these foods”. The study has highlighted the importance of B12 supplementation for all vegans, particularly pregnant women.