People taking heartburn drugs could have higher risk of death, study claims

Research suggests people on proton pump inhibitors are more likely to die than those taking different antacid or none at all

Millions of people taking common heartburn and indigestion medications could be at an increased risk of death, research suggests.

The drugs, known as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), neutralise the acid in the stomach and are widely prescribed, with low doses also available without prescription from pharmacies. In the UK, doctors issue more than 50m prescriptions for PPIs every year.

Now researchers say the drugs can increase risk of death, both compared with taking a different type of acid suppressant and not taking any at all.

We saw a small excess risk of dying that could be attributed to the PPI drug, and the risk increased the longer they took them, said Ziyad Al-Aly, an epidemiologist from the University of Washington and co-author of the study.

The team say the study suggests those who take the drugs without needing to could be most at risk. They urged people taking PPIs to check whether this was necessary.

Previous research has raised a range of concerns about PPIs, including links to kidney disease, pneumonia, more hip fractures and higher rates of infection with C difficile, a superbug that can cause life-threatening sepsis, particularly in elderly people in hospitals.

But the latest study is the first to show that PPIs can increase the chance of death. Published in the journal BMJ Open, it examined the medical records of 3.5 million middle-aged Americans covered by the US veterans healthcare system.

The researchers followed 350,000 participants for more than five years and compared those prescribed PPIs to a group receiving a different type of acid suppressant known as an H2 blocker. They also took into account factors such as the participants age, sex and conditions ranging from high blood pressure to HIV.

The results show that those who took PPIs could face a 25% higher risk of death than those who took the H2 blocker.

In patients on [H2 blocker] tablets, there were 3.3 deaths per 100 people over one year. In the PPI group, this figure was higher at 4.7 per 100 people per year, said Al-Aly.

The team also reported that the risk of death for those taking PPIs was 15% higher than those taking no PPIs, and 23% higher than for those taking no acid suppressants at all.

Similar levels of increased risk were seen among people who used PPIs but had no gastrointestinal conditions, a result which the authors speculated might be driving the higher risk seen overall.

Gareth Corbett, a gastroenterologist from Addenbrookes hospital in Cambridge who was not involved with the study, cautioned against panic, pointing out that in most cases the benefits of PPI far outweighed any risk. What was more, he said, while the increased risk sounded high, it was still very low for each person.

PPIs are very effective medicines, proven to save lives and reduce the need for surgery in patients with bleeding gastric and duodenal ulcers and several other conditions, he said.

The studys authors said it was important that PPIs were used only when necessary and stopped when no longer needed.

Corbett agreed that many people take PPIs unnecessarily. They could get rid of their heartburn by making lifestyle changes, such as losing weight and cutting back on alcohol, caffeine and spicy foods, he said.

The authors said the study was observational, meaning it did not show that PPIs were the cause of the increased risk of death, and that it was unclear how the drugs would act to affect mortality. They said the drugs could affect components within cells, known as lysosomes, that help break down waste material, or shortening protective regions at the end of chromosomes, known as telomeres.

Aly said people on PPIs should check with their GP whether the drugs were still needed, adding: In some cases we expect that PPIs can be safely stopped, particularly in patients who have been taking them for a long time.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/jul/04/people-taking-heartburn-drugs-could-have-higher-risk-of-death-study-claims

May adopts contrite tone after Tory MPs vent anger over election

Prime minister apologises to Tories who lost seats and reaffirms top cabinet posts in DUP-backed minority government

A chastened Theresa May has apologised to her party colleagues, after squandering the Conservatives majority with an ill-fated snap general election, forcing her to turn to Northern Irelands Democratic Unionist party for backing.

A surge in support for Jeremy Corbyns Labour party and its anti-austerity message drove the Conservatives into retreat, leaving them unable to form a majority government alone.

Labour won the last seat to declare, Kensington and Chelsea, meaning it had 262 MPs and the Conservatives 318 MPs. The prime minister will seek to govern with the help of the DUPs 10 MPs.

In a contrite interview, May said: I wanted to achieve a larger majority. That was not the result we secured. And Im sorry for all those candidates and hard-working party workers who werent successful, but also for those colleagues who were MPs and ministers and contributed so much to our country and who lost their seats and who didnt deserve to lose their seats.

Her explicit apology came after some colleagues were infuriated by an earlier statement in Downing Street that failed to acknowledge the disastrous election result, which many regard as self-inflicted.

After returning from Buckingham Palace, where she received the Queens blessing to form a government, May had promised to provide certainty, and urged her colleagues: Lets get to work.

The prime minister received the staunch backing of pro-Brexit MPs, including Brexit secretary David Davis, amid fears that the election result could stall the process of leaving the European Union, with formal talks due to start within 10 days.

Steve Baker, chair of the influential pro-Brexit European Research Group of backbench MPs, said: My principal thought is that its essential that Conservative MPs support Theresa May as prime minister and make it possible to form the most stable government possible.

But throughout the day, the prime minister faced a growing public backlash from MPs and defeated candidates, who expressed their fury publicly at the way the campaign was run, and the secretive, controlling management style of Mays joint chiefs of staff: Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy.

Nicky Morgan, who was sacked as education secretary by May, said: Im reeling. I think were all reeling. I think theres real fury against the campaign and the buck stops at the top.

She said it was right for the prime minister to continue in office for the time being, but added: I think she wont fight another election and I think eventually, whether it takes weeks or months, we will have to look at the leadership.

Other MPs speculated openly about the likelihood that May could be forced to call another election within months, as she struggles to govern with a wafer-thin majority, even with the backing of the DUP.

Sarah Wollaston, the Conservative MP for Totnes and former chair of the Commons health committee, said: I do think she should stay on but I wouldnt be surprised if we end up having another election soon and people will be absolutely appalled by it.

May, who used a threat of a Labour-led coalition of chaos as a key attack line during the campaign, will not enter into a formal deal with the DUP but hopes to win its backing on a vote-by-vote basis. She is expected to address parliamentary colleagues next week in a bid to shore up support.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron accused her of trying to form her own coalition of chaos. He said: She put her party before her country. She has been found out. She should be ashamed.

She has brought weakness and uncertainty. If she has an ounce of self-respect she will resign.

In a sign of the prime ministers weakened authority, she reappointed the five senior cabinet members Amber Rudd, Davis, Boris Johnson, Philip Hammond and Michael Fallon despite expectations that Hammond, and perhaps Johnson, could be moved aside if she enhanced her majority.

One cabinet source said May had offered them a reassurance that things will be changing, and a remark in her television interview that she would announce further personnel changes was read by insiders as a hint that she could be ready to sacrifice Hill and Timothy. The pair were not in their usual place at her side in No 10 on Friday night, Downing Street insiders said.

More junior appointments are expected to be made at the weekend as the prime minister replaces frontbenchers who lost their seats including Ben Gummer, the former Ipswich MP who was one of the key authors of the ill-fated manifesto, and housing minister Gavin Barwell, who lost Croydon Central.

While Labour fell well short of a parliamentary majority, Corbyns team believe the result was a vindication of their upbeat, anti-cuts message, and will seek to obstruct fresh austerity measures, including Tory manifesto policies such as means-testing the winter fuel allowance, in the voting lobbies.

A spokesman for Corbyn said: We will be using the changed parliamentary arithmetic to drive home the fact that the Tory programme for five more years of austerity will not go on as before.

Labour was invigorated by an upbeat campaign, which saw the party leader address scores of mass rallies, and resulted in many MPs significantly increasing their majorities.

Longtime Conservative seats, including Canterbury in Kent, were snatched by a resurgent Labour, which polled 40% of the vote, with the Conservatives on 42%, as minor parties were squeezed. The increase in Labours vote share was the largest for any party between two general elections since 1945.

Corbyns colleagues, including those who had previously expressed strong criticism of his leadership, praised his campaign. Owen Smith, who challenged Corbyn for the party leadership last summer after saying he was unfit for the job, said: I take my hat off to him, Chuka Umunna, the Streatham MP previously considered a potential leadership challenger, said he would consider accepting a role in a Corbyn-led shadow cabinet.

In Scotland the Scottish National party lost 21 of its 56 seats, including those of party heavyweights Angus Robertson and Alex Salmond, with the Conservatives, Lib Dems and Labour all making gains.

Nicola Sturgeons dramatic demand for a second independence referendum before the UK leaves the EU appeared not to have enthused the electorate.

Ruth Davidsons Scottish Conservatives, who put preserving the union at the centre of their campaign, achieved the best Tory result in Scotland since 1983. Davidson pointedly tweeted a recent speech she made about gay marriage on Friday, after Mays announcement that she would work closely with the socially conservative DUP, which is opposed to gay marriage.

One explanation for Labours better-than-expected performance was its success in picking up a share of the votes lost by Ukip, which withdrew from many seats and saw its support collapse in others. Corbyns party has made a deliberate populist pitch for left behind voters; and sought to neutralise the issue of Brexit by backing Mays legislation triggering Article 50.

Ukip leader Paul Nuttall announced on Friday that he would be stepping down, after less than a year in the post, prompting speculation that Nigel Farage could step back into the role. In a speech in London, Nuttall promised his party would continue to be the guard dogs of Brexit in the months ahead.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jun/09/theresa-may-hopes-to-remain-pm-as-voters-deliver-hung-parliament

General election: May falters during challenge over record on public services

PM confronted by nurse over issue of low pay in Question Time special, while Jeremy Corbyn is questioned over Trident and national security

Theresa May came under sustained pressure over the Conservative partys record on public sector pay, mental health services and social care in a combative election edition of BBC1s Question Time broadcast less than a week before polling day.

The prime minister faced a string of awkward questions from members of the public, including a challenge from a nurse, Victoria Davey, who left May faltering after confronting her over the 1% pay increase received by NHS staff.

May said she recognised the hard work people did in the health service but said her party had taken the difficult decision of enforcing pay restraint. Im being honest with you saying we will put more money in, but there isnt a magic money tree that we can shake to get everything we want, she said.

The prime minister claimed wages in the NHS had increased, to which a man in the audience shouted that there had been a real-terms salary drop of 14% since 2010, adding: So dont tell us were getting a pay rise.

One woman from the audience became emotional as she described emerging from a fitness-for-work test in tears after being asked about her suicide attempts. Im not going to make any excuses for the experience youve had, said the prime minister.

Under pressure after refusing to turn up for a TV debate earlier in the week, May was animated at first and rejected an accusation that she had performed a U-turn by calling a snap general election. No its not, sir I had the balls to call an election, she said.

Appearing straight after May on the programme, Jeremy Corbyn also faced hostile questioning, coming under pressure over defence and security.

Pressed over his willingness to push the nuclear button in the face of imminent threat, the Labour leader said: I think the idea of anyone ever using a nuclear weapon anywhere in the world is utterly appalling and terrible. It would result in the destruction of lives and community and environment of millions of people. I would be actively engaged to ensure that danger didnt come about.

Asked again if there were any circumstances in which he would use such a weapon, Corbyn said his party had committed to renew Trident. I would view the idea of using a nuclear weapon as something resulting in a failure of the whole worlds diplomatic system, he said. There has to be no first use. There has to be a process of engagement to bring about ultimately global nuclear disarmament You cannot countenance a world in which we could all be destroyed by nuclear war.

Jeremy
Jeremy Corbyn takes questions from the audience. Photograph: WPA Pool/Getty Images

The comments led to a heated exchange, with an exasperated member of the audience asking if Corbyn would not even fire back if attacked.

I would say no first use of the weapon. That has to be the basis of what we do, the Labour leader said.

He then argued: Weve only got one planet, lets get together when we live on it and above all lets not destroy it The most effective use of it is not to use it because it is there.

Corbyn did receive support from one woman in the audience who said she could not understand why others wanted to kill millions of people by discharging a nuclear weapon.

Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, said later: There is no point in having a nuclear weapon unless you are willing in principle to deploy it. Im afraid there is a lesson here about Jeremy Corbyns psychology and his politics and his naivety, with which he approaches not just the logic of the nuclear deterrent but also the Brexit negotiations.

Corbyn began his appearance, and received cheers, when he said that he would have preferred to be debating the prime minister head-to-head. He challenged May to spell out the impact of her dementia tax in the final days of the election, saying it was staggering that pensioners would not be told the level of a promised cap on social care costs.

In her session, May was asked why she was not able to provide details of the maximum amount of money people would have to spend on social care, which was only promised after days of backlash against the policy.

May defended her failure to set out additional details, even though the policy is blamed for reducing the Conservatives lead in the polls in the past fortnight. Were talking about two different things. On the floor, its important people have a protection of their savings, which is greater than it is today. Thats why weve set it at 100,000. But on the cap, I think its right we have that consultation, with individuals, with organisations that deal with these issues, with charities to make sure we get that at the right level, she said.

May focused on Brexit and attacks on Labour over the question of leadership two subjects her campaign is planning to concentrate on in the final few days of the campaign.

I called a general election because I believe the British people have a right to vote and say who they want to see leading them through the Brexit process, she said. And I believe they should have a prime minister with a resolute determination to carry out their will.

On Friday, May attempted to court business with a Financial Times interview in which she vowed to consult companies during Brexit negotiations. She promised she would work with business and identify with them what their main concerns are when it comes to designing a new immigration system, and stressed that there would be an implementation phase.

On the BBC1 programme, she hit out at Corbyn with her election mantra that he could only get into Downing Street propped up by the Lib Dems and the Scottish Nationalists, adding: Youd have Diane Abbott, who cant add up around the cabinet table, John McDonnell who is a Marxist, Nicola Sturgeon who wants to break our country up and Tim Farron who wants to take us back into the EU.

The audience challenged Corbyn on Labours policies on a higher minimum wage, corporation tax rises and zero-hour contracts, with one man claiming the agenda would hurt business.

The Labour leader responded by saying there would be support for small firms to cope with the increase in the wages that employees would be entitled to. There are many big companies that could well afford to pay it and shouldnt be just paying the minimum wage, he said.

Small companies could have problems, we fully recognise that, Corbyn added, but said a Labour government would work with them, either to give them tax relief or support in order to make sure the real living wage was paid but they didnt close down as a result.

Asked by student Edward Robbins about the zero-hours contracts that offer casual, flexible work, Corbyn said: Im not going to stop you working, its OK.

Andrew Gwynne, Labours election coordinator said: Its very regrettable the prime minister wouldnt debate with Jeremy and, after tonight, I can see why. She has no answers to the issues that really concern people on the doorstep, the NHS and cuts facing our schools, and far from appearing strong and stable, she was definitely on the back foot answering most of the questions pitched to her.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jun/02/general-election-may-falters-during-challenge-over-record-on-public-services

Popular social media sites ‘harm young people’s mental health’

Poll of 14- to 24-year-olds shows Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter increased feelings of inadequacy and anxiety

Four of the five most popular forms of social media harm young peoples mental health, with Instagram the most damaging, according to research by two health organisations.

Instagram has the most negative impact on young peoples mental wellbeing, a survey of almost 1,500 14- to 24-year-olds found, and the health groups accused it of deepening young peoples feelings of inadequacy and anxiety.

The survey, published on Friday, concluded that Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter are also harmful. Among the five only YouTube was judged to have a positive impact.

The four platforms have a negative effect because they can exacerbate childrens and young peoples body image worries, and worsen bullying, sleep problems and feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness, the participants said.

The findings follow growing concern among politicians, health bodies, doctors, charities and parents about young people suffering harm as a result of sexting, cyberbullying and social media reinforcing feelings of self-loathing and even the risk of them committing suicide.

Its interesting to see Instagram and Snapchat ranking as the worst for mental health and wellbeing. Both platforms are very image-focused and it appears that they may be driving feelings of inadequacy and anxiety in young people, said Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health, which undertook the survey with the Young Health Movement.

She demanded tough measures to make social media less of a wild west when it comes to young peoples mental health and wellbeing. Social media firms should bring in a pop-up image to warn young people that they have been using it a lot, while Instagram and similar platforms should alert users when photographs of people have been digitally manipulated, Cramer said.

The 1,479 young people surveyed were asked to rate the impact of the five forms of social media on 14 different criteria of health and wellbeing, including their effect on sleep, anxiety, depression, loneliness, self-identity, bullying, body image and the fear of missing out.

Instagram emerged with the most negative score. It rated badly for seven of the 14 measures, particularly its impact on sleep, body image and fear of missing out and also for bullying and feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness. However, young people cited its upsides too, including self-expression, self-identity and emotional support.

YouTube scored very badly for its impact on sleep but positively in nine of the 14 categories, notably awareness and understanding of other peoples health experience, self-expression, loneliness, depression and emotional support.

However, the leader of the UKs psychiatrists said the findings were too simplistic and unfairly blamed social media for the complex reasons why the mental health of so many young people is suffering.

Prof Sir Simon Wessely, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: I am sure that social media plays a role in unhappiness, but it has as many benefits as it does negatives.. We need to teach children how to cope with all aspects of social media good and bad to prepare them for an increasingly digitised world. There is real danger in blaming the medium for the message.

Young Minds, the charity which Theresa May visited last week on a campaign stop, backed the call for Instagram and other platforms to take further steps to protect young users.

Tom Madders, its director of campaigns and communications, said: Prompting young people about heavy usage and signposting to support they may need, on a platform that they identify with, could help many young people.

However, he also urged caution in how content accessed by young people on social media is perceived. Its also important to recognise that simply protecting young people from particular content types can never be the whole solution. We need to support young people so they understand the risks of how they behave online, and are empowered to make sense of and know how to respond to harmful content that slips through filters.

Parents and mental health experts fear that platforms such as Instagram can make young users feel worried and inadequate by facilitating hostile comments about their appearance or reminding them that they have not been invited to, for example, a party many of their peers are attending.

May, who has made childrens mental health one of her priorities, highlighted social medias damaging effects in her shared society speech in January, saying: We know that the use of social media brings additional concerns and challenges. In 2014, just over one in 10 young people said that they had experienced cyberbullying by phone or over the internet.

In February, Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, warned social media and technology firms that they could face sanctions, including through legislation, unless they did more to tackle sexting, cyberbullying and the trolling of young users.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/may/19/popular-social-media-sites-harm-young-peoples-mental-health

Gluten-free diet carries increased obesity risk, warn experts

Food adapted for those with coeliac disease often has more fat and less protein, and no benefits to non-sufferers, finds research

Substituting everyday staples with gluten-free foods could increase the risk of obesity, experts have warned, after finding that such products often contain higher levels of fats than the food they aim to replace.

A gluten-free diet is essential to those with coeliac disease an auto-immune condition that is thought to affect 1% of Europeans while the regime is also proving increasingly popular among those without the disease. But while a host of gluten-free products are on the market, researchers have said they have a very different nutritional make-up to conventional staples.

There is very little [consumers] can do about it, said Joaquim Calvo Lerma of the Instituto de Investigacin Sanitaria La Fe in Spain and co-author of the research. Unfortunately consumers can [only] eat what is available on the market.

Calvo Lermas warning comes after he and his and colleagues compared 655 conventional food products to 654 gluten-free alternatives across 14 food groups including breads, pasta, breakfast cereals, biscuits and even ready meals, covering a range of brands.

The results presented at the annual meeting of the European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition reveal that, overall, gluten-free products were more energy-dense than their conventional counterparts.

The team found that, on average, gluten-free bread loaves had more than twice the fat of conventional loaves, while gluten-free breads in general had two to three times less protein than conventional products. Gluten-free biscuits were also found to be lower in protein but higher in fat, while gluten-free pasta had lower levels of sugar and just half of the protein of standard pasta.

Calvo Lerma warned that gluten-free foods could be contributing to an increased risk of obesity, particularly among children who are more likely to eat products like biscuits and breakfast cereals. He urged consumers to compare gluten-free products across brands to find those with the lowest fat content.

Calvo Lerma also called on manufacturers to innovate. It is the responsibility of the food industry to produce these type of gluten-free products from other materials that are much healthier or have a [more] enhanced nutritional profile than the current raw materials being used, like cornflour or potato starch, he said, pointing out that healthier products could be made, for example, using grains such as buckwheat or amaranth.

He added that manufacturers should also add more complete and clearer labels to products to highlight their nutritional content, including levels of vitamins and minerals.

Benjamin Lebwohl, from the coeliac disease centre at Columbia University, who was not involved in the research, said that the study backs up previous evidence that gluten-free foods are nutritionally suboptimal. But while a gluten-free diet is essential for coeliacs, it is not intrinsically healthy or unhealthy, he added. It depends on the choices you make as part of the gluten-free diet, he said.

Sarah Sleet, chief executive of Coeliac UK, said the latest findings tie in with the charitys own research, adding that further development of lower-fat, gluten-free products would be welcomed.

David Sanders, professor of gastroenterology at the University of Sheffield, noted that other studies have found gluten-free and conventional foods to have similar nutritional value. The jury is out, he said.

But Sanders cautioned that there is no evidence a gluten-free diet has benefits for those without gluten sensitivity or coeliac disease. Once you go into the territory of dietary restrictions without medical symptoms then you are running the gauntlet of missing out on various vitamins or minerals without realising it, he said.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/may/11/gluten-free-diet-carries-increased-obesity-risk-warn-experts

Eating cheese does not raise risk of heart attack or stroke, study finds

Consumption of even full-fat dairy products does not increase risk, international team of experts says

Consuming cheese, milk and yoghurt even full-fat versions does not increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke, according to research that challenges the widely held belief that dairy products can damage health.

The findings, from an international team of experts, contradict the view that dairy products can be harmful because of their high saturated fat content. The experts dismiss that fear as a misconception [and] mistaken belief.

The results come from a new meta-analysis of 29 previous studies of whether dairy products increase the risk of death from any cause and from either serious heart problems or cardiovascular disease. The study concluded that such foodstuffs did not raise the risk of any of those events and had a neutral impact on human health.

This meta-analysis showed there were no associations between total dairy, high- and low-fat dairy, milk and the health outcomes including all-cause mortality, coronary heart disease or cardiovascular disease, says the report, published in the European Journal of Epidemiology.

Ian Givens, a professor of food chain nutrition at Reading University, who was one of the researchers, said: Theres quite a widespread but mistaken belief among the public that dairy products in general can be bad for you, but thats a misconception. While it is a widely held belief, our research shows that thats wrong.

Theres been a lot of publicity over the last five to 10 years about how saturated fats increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and a belief has grown up that they must increase the risk, but they dont.

However, the governments health advisers urged consumers to continue to exercise caution about eating too many products high in saturated fat and to stick to low-fat versions instead.

Dairy products form an important part of a healthy balanced diet; however, many are high in saturated fat and salt. Were all consuming too much of both, increasing our risk of heart disease, said a spokesman for Public Health England. We recommend choosing lower-fat varieties of milk and dairy products or eating smaller amounts to reduce saturated fat and salt in the diet.

Givens and colleagues from Reading, Copenhagen University in Denmark and Wageningen University in the Netherlands analysed 29 studies involving 938,465 participants from around the world undertaken over the last 35 years, including five done in the UK.

No associations were found for total (high-fat/low-fat) dairy and milk with the health outcomes of mortality, CHD or CVD, they said. In fact, they added, fermented dairy products may potentially slightly lower the risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

Doctors, public health experts and official healthy eating guidelines have for many years identified saturated fats as potentially harmful for heart and cardiovascular health and advised consumers to minimise their intake.

That has led to consumers increasingly buying lower-fat versions of dairy products. For example, 85% of all milk sold in the UK is now semi-skimmed or skimmed.

Givens said consumers were shunning full-fat versions of cheese, milk or yoghurt in the mistaken view that they could harm their health. Young people, especially young women, were now often drinking too little milk as a result of that concern, which could damage the development of their bones and lead to conditions in later life including osteoporosis, or brittle bones, he said. Consuming too little milk can deprive young people of calcium.

Pregnant women who drank too little milk could be increasing the risk of their child having neuro-developmental difficulties, which could affect their cognitive abilities and stunt their growth, Givens added.

The most recent National Diet and Nutrition Survey, the governments occasional snapshot of eating habits, found that dairy products, including butter, accounted for the highest proportion of saturated fat consumption in British diets 27%, compared with meats 24%. But if butter was not counted then dairy products together were the second largest source of saturated fat, at 22%.

Saturated fat is a vital part of diet. The NDNS found that adults typically got 34.6% of their total energy from fats as a whole, just below the 35% the government recommends. However, while total fat consumption was just within target, saturated fats still made up an unhealthily large proportion of total food energy 12.6%, against the recommended maximum of 11%.

Givens said: Our meta-analysis included an unusually large number of participants. We are confident that our results are robust and accurate.

The research was part-funded by the three pro-dairy groups Global Dairy Platform, Dairy Research Institute and Dairy Australia but they had no influence over it, the paper said. Givens is an adviser to the Food Standards Agency.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/may/08/consuming-dairy-does-not-raise-risk-of-heart-attack-or-stroke-study

Plain cigarette packaging could drive 300,000 Britons to quit smoking

Review by research organisation Cochrane suggests impact of UKs ban on branded packs could echo results seen in Australia

Plain cigarette cartons featuring large, graphic health warnings could persuade 300,000 people in the UK to quit smoking if the measure has the effect it had in Australia, scientists say.

Standardised cigarette packaging will be compulsory in the UK from 20 May. A new review from the independent health research organisation Cochrane on the impact of plain packaging around the world has found that it does affect the behaviour of smokers.

In the UK, the tobacco industry has become increasingly innovative in the design of cigarette packets as other controls on sales and advertising have taken hold, according to Ann McNeill, professor of tobacco addiction at Kings College London. The tobacco industry has been focusing its efforts on the tobacco packs, she said.

Among those that will be banned are vibrant pink packets, targeted at young women, and gimmicky cartons that slide rather than flip open. The rules that come into force next month require all packs to look alike, with graphic health warnings across 65% of their surface.

The Cochrane reviewers found 51 studies that looked at standardised packaging and its impact on smokers, but only one country had implemented the rule fully at the time. Australia brought in plain packs in 2012.

Analysing the evidence from Australia, the team found a reduction in smoking of 0.5% up to one year after the policy was introduced. According to the Australian government, that translates to 100,000 people no longer smoking. The decline was attributable specifically to plain packaging, after taking into account the continuing drop in the numbers of smokers caused by other tobacco control measures.

Dr Jamie Hartmann-Boyce of the Cochrane tobacco addiction group at Oxford Universitys Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences said: We are not able to say for sure what the impact would be in the UK, but if the same magnitude of decrease was seen in the UK as was observed in Australia, this would translate to roughly 300,000 fewer smokers following the implementation of standardised packaging.

The review found signs that more people were trying to quit smoking as a result of plain cartons, rising from 20.2% before to 26.6% after introduction. There was also evidence that standardised packs were less attractive to those who did not smoke, making it less likely that they would start.

However, the researchers say variations in the way countries are introducing standardised packs may affect the outcomes. Some allow different colours, slightly different carton shapes and the use of descriptive words such as gold or smooth.

Cancer Research UK backs plain packaging. Smoking kills 100,000 people in the UK every year, so we support any effective measure which can help reduce this devastating impact. The evidence shows that standardised packaging works and helps to reduce smoking rates, said George Butterworth, the charitys tobacco policy manager.

Its too soon to see the impact in the UK, as the new legislation will only be fully implemented in May, but we hope to see similar positive results as the UK strives towards a day when no child smokes tobacco. Cancer Research UK is continuing to evaluate the impact of standardised packaging in the UK and will share the lessons with other countries who are considering introducing them.

Simon Clark, director of the smokers group Forest, said the idea that plain packaging would have an impact on the number of smokers in the UK was based on hope and anecdotal evidence.

Since plain packaging was introduced in Australia, smoking rates have fallen, but only in line with historical trends, he said. Its grasping at straws to credit plain packaging with the continued reduction in smoking rates, because the most significant anti-smoking measure in recent years in Australia has been a massive increase in tobacco taxation. Like graphic health warnings, the novelty of plain packaging quickly wears off.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/apr/27/plain-cigarette-packaging-could-drive-300000-britons-to-quit-smoking

Man, 95, who bludgeoned wife in ‘mercy killing’ bid gets suspended sentence

Judge tells Denver Beddows he will not be jailed so as not to prolong his agony after acceding to wifes requests to take her life

A great-grandfather who attempted to murder his wife in an act of mercy after she repeatedly begged him to end her life has been spared jail.

Denver Charles Beddows, 95, attempted to kill his wife of 65 years, who he described as the most beautiful woman in the world, with a lump hammer and ceramic pan.

Beddows, who ran a car body repair businesses for 40 years, carried out the act at the couples home in Warrington after his 88-year-old wife, Olive, pleaded with him to end her life so that she would not die in a care home.

Liverpool crown court heard that the fiercely independent couple had a perfect and happy marriage but both their physical and mental health suffered after Olive Beddows was involved in a car accident around nine months before the attack.

In the weeks preceding the incident the couples family said she had become increasingly anxious and had to be prescribed medication after her mental health was described as fragile.

Anya Horwood, prosecuting, said: She became increasingly apprehensive and claimed they are coming to get me. It would appear that the additional care required for Mrs Beddows was placing an additional strain on the defendant who resolutely refused the assistance of social services.

On the evening of 3 February the couples son and daughter-in-law went to the Beddows home to help them prepare for bed and found the couple in a confused state.

At 10.15 the next morning Beddows rang his son sounding distressed, and said: Ive tried to kill your mother. Beddows told him he had hit her with a hammer.

Their son, also named Denver, and his wife rushed to the house and found blood in the hallway and broken crockery.

The couple were sitting together on the bathroom floor with Beddows holding his wifes head on a pillow and mumbling in distress.

Olive Beddows was taken to hospital with multiple open skull fractures and injuries to her head and face.

Beddows was confused and shaking, telling police officers: My wife was going mad. I tried to kill her why didnt she die? I went to get the hammer from the garage. I couldnt stab her.

I wanted her to die and I havent managed to and now I have just increased her suffering.

Beddows, who was also taken to hospital, told staff his wife had begged him to kill her because she did not want to go to a hospital.

The pensioner who joined the RAF at 19, has had depression since 1962 and is now suffering from a form of post-traumatic amnesia said he had been working himself up to the attack for days but did not want to kill his wife in her sleep.

He told officers: Then I got to this morning and it was now or never. But I messed it up and she isnt dead. Shes the most beautiful woman in the world and Ive made it worse. I would happily be a murderer please tell me I killed her.

The judge was urged to suspend the inevitable prison sentence describing it as an act of mercy.

Philip Tully, defending, said Olive Beddows had repeatedly asked her husband to end her life, which he had refused to act upon until that day when he was in state of exhaustion and despair in relation to her health and well being.

Judge Clement Goldstone, QC, told Beddows who had been in custody since the incident that he would not be going to jail so as not to prolong your agony.

He said: Although this was a terrible crime the blame which attaches to you for what you did is far outweighed by the tragedy of the situation and the circumstances in which you found yourself.

You hit her out of bed with a pan and then subjected her to a repeated attack with a hammer in a determined effort to end her life for one reason and one reason alone she did not wish to end her days in a home or hospital where she believed that her deteriorating mental health was leading her.

You were under immense pressure in the days leading up to your attempt to kill her and your acts were acts of last resort because you failed to persuade her that she was going nowhere.

He said that he took into account that despite the severity of her injuries Olive Beddows was making a significant recovery, had forgiven her husband and wished to be reunited with him.

That is indeed true love no doubt earned by you over 65 years of devoted and loyal married life described by you as perfect and happy, the judge added.

Beddows, who was wearing a body warmer over his jumper, became visibly emotional during the proceedings, before saying: Thank you sir as he was led from the dock. He had pleaded guilty to attempting to murder his wife at their home in Warrington. He had been in custody since his arrest, having declined to apply for bail. He was given a two-year sentence suspended for two years.

The couples family said in a statement: As a family we are trying to come to terms with the tragic events that took place on 4 February. The last 12 months have been particularly difficult, as we all attempted to cope with mums mental illness, which is still yet to be diagnosed.

At present we are supporting both mum and dad.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/apr/25/denver-beddows-95-mercy-killing

People whose ‘brain age’ is older than their real age more likely to die early

Scientists at Imperial College London used MRI scans and algorithms to produce computer-generated brain age and spot risk of dying young

Doctors may be able to warn patients if they are at risk of early death by analysing their brains, British scientists have discovered.

Those whose brains appeared older than their true age were more likely to die early and to be in worse physical and mental health, a study by Imperial College London found.

The research found a way of predicting someones brain age that could help to spot those at risk of dying young.

The study, piloted in Scotland, suggests using MRI scans to estimate a persons brain age compared with their real age could also help to spot who might be at increased risk of poor health as they grow older.

By combining MRI scans with machine learning algorithms, a team of neuroscientists trained computers to predict the age of a persons brain based on their volume of brain tissue.

When the technique was tested on a group of older adults in Scotland, they found that the greater the difference between the computer-generated brain age and the persons actual age, the higher their risk of poor mental and physical health and the more likely they were to die before they turned 80.

Those with a brain age older than their real age also had weaker grip, lower lung capacity and slower walking speed.

Researchers say that if the initial findings could be applied to a screening programme, the technique could be used to inform doctors, showing whether or not a patient had a healthy brain age or was above or below the line, similar to how body mass index (BMI) is used. They could then advise patients to change their lifestyle or start a course of treatment.

James Cole, a research associate who led the study, said: People use the age of an organ all the time to talk about health. Smokers are said to have lungs that are 20 years older than they should be, you can even answer online questionnaires about exercise and diet and get a heart age. This technique could eventually be like that.

However, it would need more fine-tuning for accuracy before it could be used in this way, Cole said. At present it has a margin of error of about five years. MRI scans are also currently too expensive to be used as a widespread screening tool but researchers hope that costs will come down in the future.

In the long run it would be great if we could do this accurately enough so that we could do it at an individual level, he said. However, at the moment, its not sufficiently accurate to be used at that sort of individual level.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/apr/26/people-whose-brain-age-is-older-than-their-real-age-more-likely-to-die-early