Chinese study links measles outbreaks to pollution

Despite high levels of vaccination rates of 99% in China, they continue to experience measles outbreaks. This brings into question the theory behind herd immunity and turns the spotlight firmly onto these outbreaks. China experiences very high levels of air pollution and new research has now found that exposure to high levels of pollution is significantly related to measles cases. Air pollution has been linked to suppression of our immune system, which suggests that the virus alone is not capable of inducing disease and that a host of other factors are also involved.

Italy increases vitamin levels

Following on from the recent ruling by the European Court of Justice, Italy has increased the maximum permitted levels (MPLs) of vitamin D (from 25 mcg to 50 mcg), B12 (from 33 mcg to 1000 mcg) and vitamin K (from 105 mcg to 180 mcg)based on the European Food Safety Authority’s opinions, despite resistance from some quarters. Whilst this is certainly a move in the right direction, levels are still low in terms of promoting optimal health for European citizens. The European Commission is not currently progressing with harmonised Maximum Permitted Levels for vitamins and minerals, but individual member states are setting their own. ANH-Intl is undertaking the research work necessary to change the way vitamins and minerals are risk assessed to also account for the benefits they infer — many of them essential to life. Read more.

Vegan diets in childhood

Experts at the 50th Annual Meeting of the European Society of Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (ESPGHAN) have warned of the potential risks of serious nutritional deficiencies imposed by a vegan diet given to young children. Whilst plant foods play a vital role in our diet and a plant based diet provides a great basis for healthy eating, it is not possible to get certain vitamins such as vitamin B12 from a vegan diet. Young children have immature palates, which may also make introducing the wide variety of foods necessary to ensure a balanced vegan diet, more challenging. For those wishing to follow a vegan diet it is essential to consume a very diverse plant-based diet as well as supplementing B12 and omega 3 fatty acids from algal sources. For more information on the risks and benefits of following a vegan diet read ‘To be vegan or vegetarian, or not to be.

Cannabis may boost memory in older people

Following recent calls for medical cannabis to be made legal, a new mouse study published in Nature Medicine, has found that small regular doses of the active chemical found in cannabis, Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), can boost memory and thinking in older mice. They also found that younger mice suffered reduced performance. The increase in brain function has been linked to improved gene expression in the brain. The team now plans to carry out human trials using purified THC to ensure a controlled dosage is given.

Sweeteners and weight gain

Non-nutritive sweeteners keep the brain ‘hungry’, increase appetite, damage the gut microbiome and contribute to weight gain. A new study has shown that one sweetener in particular, a sugar alcohol (polyol), erythritol, may contribute to weight gain. Contrary to previous thinking, it has now been found that erythritol can be metabolised and made by the body. Researchers found that overweight students had a fifteenfold higher blood erythritol level compared to slimmer students. This new knowledge may well change its status as a non-calorific sweetener.

World Obesity Federation calls for obesity to be classified as a disease

Following the WHO’s report showing 1 in 3 adolescents in Europe are now obese, The World Obesity Federation have issued a position statement calling for obesity to be classified as a disease. Obesity, and in particular childhood obesity, is now considered to be one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century. Recent reports have highlighted the problem of European children’s high daily consumption of confectionary. At the same time, a new Spanish study presented at this year’s European Congress on Obesity has shown that swopping one serving of beer or sugar-sweetened soft drink per day for water may reduce the risk of becoming obese by as much as 20%. Whilst many would agree that obesity is a chronic disease, whether an official classification will empower people to take more responsibility for their health or the opposite remains to be seen. Obesity, as well as the majority of health problems caused by the condition, can be successfully ameliorated or managed with diet and lifestyle interventions.