Measles hysteria and media bias

The ongoing hysteria around measles continues following the release of 2017 data for measles cases by the European office of the World Health Organization (WHO). According to the report there were 21,315 notified cases of measles with 35 deaths attributed to the disease. Looking in closer detail at the figures it becomes apparent that only 0.0023% (that’s 23 in a million people) of the population have actually been affected. What the media has neglected to report is the number of laboratory confirmed cases. Of the 21,315 reported cases only a little more than half (11,217 [52%]) were laboratory confirmed as measles. Once again, sensationalism appears to be at a fever pitch, with the public being told that it’s all down to lack of vaccination, with the blame being laid at the door of anti-vaccinators. Reinforcing this on Saturday 24th February, The Times published a vitriolic and uniformed opinion piece from columnist Janice Turner (@VictoriaPeckham) declaiming the so called anti-vax movement. ANH-Intl was compelled to speak out against the politicised and poor journalism. You can read founder, executive & scientific director, Rob Verkerk PhD’s, letter to the editor below:

@VictoriaPeckam’s piece (“Selfish anti-vaxxers wipe out years of progress”) last Saturday fell into the very trap that anti-vaxxers are being asked to avoid: stop being so entrenched with your attitudes about vaccination. The reality is that the debate on vaccination rages in the UK, Italy, Denmark, Japan and elsewhere because of huge uncertainty in the data, not because of a surplus of data proving consistent and high levels of efficacy and an absence of risk. The pro-vax movement needs to address, rather than gloss over, some of the real challenges facing national immunisation strategies and mandatory vaccination. That includes gaining a better understanding of long-term health outcomes in vaccinated and unvaccinated populations (an area in which precious few data currently exist), factors affecting innate and acquired immunity, reasons for vaccine failures and recognising increased public awareness of vaccine-associated adverse reactions. Denigrating as intellectually challenged those espousing choice is unhelpful, especially when most of those citing concern over our society’s increased reliance on childhood vaccination as a primary prevention strategy for infectious diseases are from more socio-economically advantaged and better educated groups.”

It is then perhaps unsurprising to note that, not only did The Times not voice Dr Verkerk’s response in its Letters To The Editor section, but rather aired three others (note: registration needed) all in favour of the original article’s argument against the vaccination weary. Once again, the public are being disadvantaged by Time’s journalists writing in a highly complex scientific area with a less than shaky understanding of the science. More information about informing yourself on the latest science so you can make informed vaccine choices can be found at ANH-Intl’s Vaccine Choice campaign page.

Pharma funded antidepressant science

How many people do you know who have been prescribed or recommended anti-depressants by their doctor? With so many popping feel-good pills like magic candy, it’s no surprise to see media headlines worldwide welcoming a new meta-analysis claiming to validate the value of the use of antidepressant medications. As with all research, the devil is in the detail – or the money trail! On closer inspection, we find that of the 522 trials which were included, 409 were Pharma funded - of which 86 were previously unpublished trials. Furthermore, researchers were provided with unpublished information for 274 of the included studies. If that wasn’t enough, close to half (42%) of the studies were comparisons of antidepressant against antidepressant, with a slightly limp 58% being placebo controlled. We leave you to make up your own mind as to whether the science has been settled.

Coconut oil is good – so says ‘Trust me I’m a Doctor’!

Sales of coconut oil are continuing to rise as news of its beneficial effects spread, despite continued warnings from the mainstream because it contains saturated fat. BBC Two’s ‘Trust Me, I'm a Doctor’ programme recently ran a mini-study in conjunction with a team from Cambridge University to see if the claims for coconut oil’s health effects would stand up to scrutiny. Taking nearly 100 volunteers, all over the age of 50, to test what effect coconut oil would have on their levels of HDL and LDL cholesterol compared to butter and olive oil, their team was left surprised by the results. Whilst butter appeared to increase LDL, so-called bad cholesterol, there was no statistically significant rise in the olive oil and coconut oil groups. There was, however, an increase in levels of HDL (good) cholesterol, which helps to remove LDL cholesterol from the body. Their conclusion? “Further studies are needed to find out the longer term effects of coconut oil, but our results suggest it is a comparatively healthy addition to the diet with respect to cholesterol.” Those of us who’ve long used coconut oil will continue to benefit, but hopefully this new information will allay the fears of those still believing that saturated fat is a dietary evil to be avoided at all costs.

UK Millenials set to be unhealthiest generation yet

With obesity levels pretty much out of control worldwide, 70% of UK Millenials are set to be the fattest British generation to date according to Cancer Research UK. This is particularly troubling when considering the increased risk of developing serious diseases, such as cancer, with 13 different types of cancer directly linked to being overweight or obese. Hot on the heels of the report from Cancer Research UK comes comparatively damning statistics from Diabetes UK that the number of people in the UK being diagnosed with diabetes has doubled in the last twenty years. The numbers make stark reading – almost 3.7 m have been diagnosed, with a further 12.3 m at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. However, the good news is that it’s not too late to change. Decisions to make dietary and lifestyle change are within our personal locus of control and can be actioned immediately. Even simple changes such as removing highly refined, ultra-processed carbs from our diets, increasing activity levels and prioritising appropriate sleep, can improve our overall health and reduce our risk of developing chronic disease. Read more on the changes you can make to your diet to help combat obesity and reduce the associated health risks.