Breaking news! No vaccination, no school in Italy

Italian Health Minister Beatrice Lorenzin has said that the Italian government intends to approve legislation to ban non-vaccinated children from starting state schools by the end of this week, thus removing parental choice over vaccination unless they are prepared to homeschool their children. Currently children can be admitted to school without a vaccination certificate, although some regions in Italy have already implemented a ban on unvaccinated children entering state school. MEP Piernicola Pedicini believes compulsory vaccination is not the way forward and is questioning the Commission over the policy and requesting evidence to support the implementation of such a policy.

Sweden rejects mandatory vaccination

In contrast to the stance being taking in Italy, Sweden has rejected calls to introduce mandatory vaccination after a challenge by the Swedish arm of US non-profit, National Health Federation. The concerns include that, “It violates the fact that all Swedish medical care, according to existing laws, is based on free will with regard to medication and other treatment (with the exception of forced hospitalization). It violates article 8 in ECHR, about human rights. It violates the Nuremberg Code (vaccines lack satisfactory scientific foundation, since there have never been any adequate risk-benefit analysis comparing vaccinated to unvaccinated. Thus all vaccination must be seen as experimental mass research). It violates the Helsinki Declaration (vaccines lack satisfactory scientific foundation, because there has never been risk/benefit research comparing vaccinated to unvaccinated.) Thus all vaccination must be seen as experimental mass research.” This can only be good news for Swedish parents. We hope that Sweden has helped to set a precedent that other countries will follow in the future.

Doctor in the House back on TV

Following the landslide success of his first series, Dr Rangan Chatterjee is back on UK TV screens again. On Monday 15th May his second series of Doctor in the House aired on BBC1 at the prime-time slot of 9pm. Using a functional medicine approach to address the conditions presented to him – although the BBC have been careful to ensure that no mention of the term appears anywhere – Dr Chatterjee seeks to address the root cause of the problems that conventional medical treatment has been unable to rectify. This involves looking at the patient’s medical problems through an holistic, lifestyle-medicine lens. By addressing the person within the matrix of their entire lifestyle and environment, Dr Chatterjee seeks to restore balance and allow the body to heal. This is a whole body, whole person approach that is diametrically juxtaposed to the convention in mainstream medicine today that separates the body into component parts and hence, medical disciplines. Addressing what his patients (and their families) eat, how much sleep they get, how they move and relax is given top billing. As Rangan Chatterjee frequently says, “If you get the basics right, everything improves!” Something with which we at ANH-Intl wholeheartedly support and agree. This, and the last series, are both compelling and impelling viewing. Reality TV with an educational and health-empowering core. Dr Chatterjee rightly appears to be everyone’s dream doctor! Purchase the first series online.

Fasting as a tool for weight control

The use of fasting as a weight control tool has gained in popularity over current years, particularly with the introduction of the 5:2 diet by Dr Michael Moseley. With this regime you eat normally 5 days a week and reduce your calorie intake to 500 calories for women and 600 calories for men on the other two days. A new study published in the journal Jama Internal Medicine compared the effects of fasting on alternate days vs a daily calorie restriction diet on weight loss, weight maintenance and risk indicators for cardiovascular disease. The study included 100 people aged 18 to 64 years of age with a mean body mass index of 34 who were assigned to one of three groups, alternative day fasting, calorie restriction and a control group. The groups were followed for a period of a year (6 months weight loss followed by 6 months weight maintenance). Researchers report that alternate day fasting did not result in a greater weight loss over the year than that of the calorie restriction group (6% vs 5.3%). 13 (of 34) people dropped out of the fasting group, whilst 10 (of 35) dropped out of the calorie restriction with 8 (of 31) dropping out of the control group. Researchers found no significant difference in blood pressure, heart rate, triglycerides, fasting glucose, fasting insulin, insulin resistance, C-reactive protein or homocysteine concentrations at months 6 or 12. A rise in cholesterol levels was reported in the fasting group. No mention has been made of whether guidance on appropriate changes to diet composition and inclusion of exercise were given prior to the study. When taking steps to engage the body’s metabolic, protective, evolutionary mechanisms at the cellular level, what you eat is just as important as when you eat. This important consideration is often missed in such research studies, which will skew the data and potentially set people off on the wrong course. Read more here.

Eating dairy is not linked to heart disease risk

There has been a lot controversy around the consumption of dairy products in recent years, particularly around its role in promoting inflammation in the body. Due to the conclusions of recent studies that have shown an increased risk between consumption of dairy products and increased mortality risk, a new meta-analysis published in the European Journal of Epidemiology and funded by the dairy industry, has been undertaken. The study, which looked at 29 cohort studies, concluded there is no link between consumption of dairy products and an increased risk of death from coronary heart disease (CHD), cardiovascular disease (CVD) or all-cause mortality. There was a slight reduction in mortality rate with consumption of fermented milk products (excluding yogurt). Interesting how industry-funded studies always find in favour of their products, whilst independent research often reaches a different conclusion!

Red meat consumption and mortality risk

Research published in The BMJ has suggested an increased risk of all-cause mortality and death due to nine different causes associated with both processed and unprocessed red meat consumption. One striking finding was the high association between red meat intake and chronic liver disease, however whilst the researchers say they have controlled for alcohol consumption, this is notoriously underreported in health surveys. They also, have not controlled for viral hepatitis or abuse of medicines. In a response to the paper, George Henderson questions the authors claim to, “…compare white meat (mainly chicken) consumers with red meat consumers by equalising consumption mathematically; "without changing the overall meat intake”, avoiding a more realistic model, and questions the reliability of the findings of the study. ANH-Intl have tackled the issue of meat consumption previously looking at missing factors in research, such as the impacts of cooking techniques, when looking at the risks of meat consumption. The only factor considered in this new research was that of additives in meat, yet cooking at high temperatures e.g. grilling (broiling), BBQs and frying are known to damage the protein and create carcinogenic compounds. For guidance on adopting a healthy diet have a look at ANH-Intl’s Food4Health guidelines.

US relaxes standards on school food

US Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue has announced that the Department of Agriculture (USDA) is relaxing nutrition standards for school meal programs introduced under the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act in 2010. Legislation introduced by Michelle Obama gave free meals to low income students, made school meals more nutritious and prevented schools from selling snacks high in salt, sugar and fat. There have been many complaints about the cost of the programme and wastage due to children not eating the food they are given. However, recent research showed that although there was an initial loss of revenue, longer term revenues are stable and the participation in the school lunch programme has increased. Control of guidelines on whole grains, sodium and milk will now be given back to local authorities. New flexibilities include allowance of a reduction in the amount of whole grain products served, less requirement to meet higher sodium targets and inclusion of 1% flavoured milk, where exemptions are granted. Read more from our colleagues in ANH-USA.

Gluten-free diet carries increased obesity risk

Substituting everyday food staples with processed gluten-free foods could increase the risk of obesity. Experts from the Instituto de Investigación Sanitaria La Fe in Spain have issued this warning after finding processed replacement foods have a very different nutritional composition to the foods they are replacing. Researchers compared 654 gluten-free products with 655 gluten-containing products. The results – presented at the annual meeting of the European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition – revealed that, gluten-free products contained higher levels of fats, and lower levels of protein than their conventional counterparts. Whilst lower protein is definitely an issue, increased fat levels are not, given they are the right kinds of fats. It’s sugar and refined carbohydrates that should be assessed in commercial gluten-free foods and they rarely are. Many foods are naturally gluten-free and are recommended as the first choice for those avoiding gluten in their diets, rather than using processed gluten-free foods produced by Big Food. Given the wealth of evidence on gluten and health, ANH-Intl do not recommend consumption of gluten. However, neither do we recommend replacing gluten-containing products with the ones on the Free From shelves. For information on healthy gluten-free choices, see ANH-Intl’s Food4Health guidelines.