Italian parents protest mandatory vaccination

A full Roman legion, 20,000 people, joined together in Rome and across Italy to protest against mandatory vaccination. The show of unity came after the Italian Government’s rush to force parents to give their children 12 vaccines or face fines of up to €7,500 and prevent their children from entering school. Demonstrators wore white T-shirts to show their solidarity. Amongst them were representatives of organisations opposing vaccination, doctors, lawyers, parents and children. The march was stopped from reaching the Ministry of Health in its totality, with authorities allowing only a few protestors through. A separate candlelight procession took place in Verona on Saturday night. It has been hinted that the new law may have been strongly influenced by the pharmaceutical industry through its links with the Italian Ministry of Health. Let’s see what people power can achieve.

Glyphosate in the EU

The fight against the re-approval of glyphosate in the EU continues. Following EFSA’s assessment that glyphosate is not ‘a probable carcinogen’ the Greens/EFA have requested access to the studies used to reach this conclusion. However, access has been denied. As a result, they are now going to the European Court of Justice to gain access. In further news, the Socialists and Democrats have called on the European Parliament to review the science used by EFSA to conclude that glyphosate is not a carcinogen prior to a debate in the plenary yesterday. They are demanding that, “… the precautionary principle be strictly applied in order to ensure better protection for the health of Europeans and to guarantee transparency and public access to scientific studies."

Neuroimaging may diagnose autism risk

Children currently have a 1 in 25 risk of developing autism. In order to predict the risk of a child developing autism, US researchers have been looking at the way different areas of the brain work together. Using a form of magnetic resonance imaging (fcMRI) researchers focused on the connections the brain uses to control functions such as behavior, language and motor development. While they were asleep, 59 6-month old babies, considered to be at high risk (due to having older siblings with autism), were scanned. The images were then analysed using a technology that trains itself to look for differences in the images and then predicts the possible development of autism. The system correctly predicted 9 out of 11 babies who went on to be diagnosed with autism age 24-months. The other 48 babies were also correctly diagnosed as not being at risk of developing autism. Researchers hope this new technique will help them to develop effective early interventions to improve future outcomes in children deemed to be at risk of autism. Scientific opinion is divided as to the cause(s) of autism and this may highlight just one of many risks factors.

Artificial sweeteners in pregnancy increase obesity risk in kids

As the attention on the health risks of sugar increases so does its replacement in processed foods and drinks with non-nutritive sweeteners. Whilst these sugar replacements are extremely sweet, they offer no nutritional value to the body. In fact, they can contribute to weight gain due to the effect they have on your brain and the gut microbiome. In a recent Danish study, researchers found children born to mothers consuming artificially sweetened drinks were at greater risk of becoming overweight by age 7. Those children born to mothers suffering from gestational diabetes, were found to be at particular risk. Many amongst us have lost their connection to food and its ability to keep us healthy as we replace whole, natural, nutrient dense foods with processed, calorie and energy-dense, but nutrition-deficient foods. Read more on how to reconnect with the joy of eating healthy, unprocessed foods in our recent article discussing the sugar tax and how it’s driving Big Food to replace sugar with non-nutritive sweeteners.

Prebiotics help weight loss in kids

Following on from the previous report, prebiotics have been found to reduce body fat and change the gut microbiome in overweight children. The double-blind placebo controlled trial included children aged 7-12 years old who were overweight. They were given either an oligofructose-enriched inulin (OI) supplement, a prebiotic that feeds gut bacteria or a placebo for 16 weeks. At the end of the trial children given the OI had lost weight and experienced improved gut microbiota composition. Whilst the trial used an inulin supplement, OI is found naturally in vegetables and fruit and provides food for our gut bacteria to keep them healthy and maintain a diverse population. Yet another reason we should all ‘Eat a Rainbow’ everyday.

Traditional medicine both at risk and up for protection in Africa

Last year, South Africa introduced the ‘Protection, Promotion, Development and Management of Indigenous Knowledge Systems’ (IKS Bill) Bill, supposedly intended to stop ‘ethnopiracy’. South Africa’s Traditional and Natural Health Alliance (TNHA) warned it will instead create a mechanism for the wholesale sell-off of these novel plant applications to the highest bidding companies. Whilst the future for indigenous herbals looks bleak in South Africa, some good news hit us this week further north. The Nigerian Institute of Medical Research is partnering with the Nigerian Council of Physicians of Natural Medicine to investigate the efficacy, efficiency and safety of Nigeria’s natural medicines! This work will also ensure the continued availability of traditional medicines to all Nigerians and provide much some needed affordable treatments to all those who need them.