Calling it a “genomic revolution” and saying the NHS is “on the cusp of a healthcare revolution”, the UK’s Health Secretary, Matt Hancock MP, has unveiled plans to routinely offer DNA testing for all newborns within days of their birth. This follows an announcement at the beginning of the year to offer DNA tests to patients in return for their data. Given the news of the sale of NHS data to Google, this could provide a rich seam of highly sought-after health data for those keen to profit from it. The news throws up many issues including consent, data privacy and how parents might have to deal with lifetime risks from genetically-mediated diseases, especially where no adequate treatments exist. It’s being pushed through under the banner of personalised medicine, which allows better targeting of treatments, but because the genomic tests are disease rather than health focused they are likely to benefit the existing biomedical model of detecting, treating and managing disease using primarily drug-based treatments. It’s likely a far cry from a more sustainable model, as pioneered by ANH, based on health creation and promotion.
Google buys Fitbit
Google has agreed to buy Fitbit for $2.1 billion in a move that adds to its portfolio in the wearable technology space. As concerns mount over Google’s potential use of data harvested from Fitbit’s 27m active users along with historical data, the company has issued a statement designed to reassure users “We will never sell personal information to anyone. Fitbit health and wellness data will not be used for Google ads. And we will give Fitbit users the choice to review, move, or delete their data.” Will the threat of fines be enough to stop the abuse of the data? It’s unlikely given the value of health data is predicted to grow by 500% to $68.8 billion by 2025.
RESEARCH: Ultra-processed food is driving childhood obesity and ill health
Obesity is at epidemic levels globally and children are being significantly affected. According to a new study published in PLOS ONE, over half of commonly eaten processed foods in the EU are too unhealthy to be marketed for consumption by kids. Similarly, a new report from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) warns nutritionally poor ultra-processed foods are replacing traditional foods in Latin America and the Caribbean fuelling concerns over the health risks posed by such foods. Concerns which are mirrored by new research from Brazil showing many babies are being weaned onto ultra-processed foods. Analysis from the US based Center for Science in the Public Interest found that for every hour of TV watched, kids were exposed to 10 junk food ads. Shockingly, there has been no decrease in junk food marketing since its last analysis in 2012. Given the effect of ultra-processed foods on our gut microbiome the findings of a new review implicating damaged gut microbiomes, even as early as gestation, in the development of childhood obesity are of no surprise. It also described how a child's obesity risk can be affected by its mother's diet health, levels of exercise, antibiotic use, method of birth (natural or cesarean) and whether a baby is breast or bottle fed.
STUDY: 80 percent decline in arthropod numbers in Germany in one decade
Evidence of the sharp decline in populations of insects and other arthropods continues to mount with the publication of a new study of grasslands and forests in Germany, published in Nature. The study reveals startling declines in biomass (67%), abundance (78%) and number of species (24%) between 2008 and 2017. The implications of such declines are huge given the pivotal role insects play in ecosystems and food webs. While there has been more focus on pollinators like bees that have commercial significance for humans, insect and arthropod abundance and diversity is essential to the health and wellbeing of not only human food systems, but the environment in general, on which humans and all other organisms depend.
RESEARCH: Get moving to stay healthy as you age
Being physically active as you age reduces the risk of dying prematurely. Publishing in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, an international group of researchers unsurprisingly found elderly people in Brazil with the lowest levels of physical activity died earlier than those who were physically active. A new Japanese study found older people engaging in Interval Walking Training for 50 minutes a week, experienced significant improvements in aerobic capacity. High intensity workouts have also been found to improve memory in older people. Researchers from McMaster University writing in Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, saw a 30% improvement in memory among those using HIIT based exercise. Additionally as fitness levels improved, so did memory performance. Proving it’s never too late to get up, get out, get fit and age gracefully!
STUDY: Why we should eat seasonally
The benefits to health of eating seasonally has been emphasised by new research published in the journal Nutrients. Researchers explored the relationship between our natural biological rhythms and the plant-based nutrients produced by plants grown and ripened in their natural season. Eating a diverse range of local, seasonal different foods covering the 6 colours of the phytonutrient spectrum is essential to living a brighter, more vital life closer to the limits of your biological and genetic potential.