NHS Choices: Behind the headlines

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Frozen IVF embryos leads to 'healthier babies'

4th September 2012

NHS Choices: Behind the headlines

“IVF embryos that were frozen may result in healthier babies,” reports The Guardian. The news is based on a study that combined the results of previously published studies to look at outcomes for the mother and child during pregnancy and just after birth in pregnancies resulting from the transfer of fresh and frozen IVF embryos. During IVF “fresh” embryos are usually planted into a woman’s womb once an egg has been successfully fertilised with their partner’s sperm. Some women choose to have one or more embryos frozen and then stored, for a number of reasons, for implantation at a later ...

Eating organic food 'won’t make you healthier'

4th September 2012

NHS Choices: Behind the headlines

“Organic food is not healthier,” The Daily Telegraph advises. The news is based on a review of a large number of studies comparing the health effects of organic foods to conventional foods. While there is no internationally agreed definition of “organic”, most people understand it to mean: foods grown without the use of artificial fertilisers, pesticides or other chemicals meat taken from animals that have not been given antibiotics or growth hormones Many champions of organic food, such as Prince Charles, have claimed that food grown organically is healthier and more nutritious. However, this review found no strong evidence to ...

E-cigarettes 'may damage lungs'

3rd September 2012

NHS Choices: Behind the headlines

“Electronic cigarettes could 'damage your lungs' as they cause less oxygen to be absorbed by the blood,” reports the Daily Mail. The news is based on a press release of preliminary findings of a small study investigating the short-term effects of smoking an ‘e-cigarette’, commonly known as ‘vaping’. The study looked at the lung function of non-smokers and smokers with and without lung conditions. According to the press release, researchers found that ‘smoking’ a single e-cigarette for 10 minutes caused an increase in airway resistance, blocking the air getting into and out of the lungs. Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are devices ...

Glass shape 'affects' drinking speed

3rd September 2012

NHS Choices: Behind the headlines

“Using a curved glass could get you drunk quicker, scientists say,” the Sun has reported. The news comes after researchers found that, on average, people drank alcohol more quickly from a curvy glass, compared with a straight one. This experimental study aimed to look at the influence of two factors on how quickly people drank - the type of drink and the type of glass used. Participants took about four minutes longer to drink the same volume of alcohol from a straight glass compared with a curved glass. The researchers argue that there is a possible connection between drinking speed ...

Healthy lifestyle in your 70s can 'add six years' to lifespan

31st August 2012

NHS Choices: Behind the headlines

Being active and living a healthy lifestyle into your 70s can make a huge difference to your life expectancy, the BBC reported today. The story is based on a large Swedish study of people aged 75 and over, which found that those with a healthy lifestyle (such as not smoking and taking regular exercise) lived, on average, over 5 years longer than those with unhealthy lifestyles. Interestingly, the researchers found that factors not directly related to physical health, such as having an active social life and regular involvement in leisure activities, also contributed to increased longevity. The findings also applied ...

Flu can spread before symptoms show

31st August 2012

NHS Choices: Behind the headlines

“Flu can be spread long before symptoms appear,” according to the Daily Mail. The news reports followed a study aiming to investigate whether someone could pass the flu virus onto others before they themselves have developed any symptoms such as sneezing and a high temperature. The researchers infected ferrets with a strain of the 2009 H1N1 (swine flu) virus and found that they were able to spread the virus to other ferrets before they developed symptoms. When the researchers housed these pre-symptomatic ferrets with three others, all three became infected. When they housed another three ferrets in neighbouring cages, two ...

Aggressive personality 'doubles stroke risk'

30th August 2012

NHS Choices: Behind the headlines

The Daily Mail informed us today that aggressive behaviour ‘doubles risk of stroke’ and that ‘being aggressive, quick tempered and impatient can increase the risk of stroke as much as smoking’. This headline conjures up the old saying to ‘burst a blood vessel’ when angry, and is based on a small study that compared people admitted to hospital with a stroke with healthy people. Researchers aimed to investigate whether particular behaviours such as feeling stressed or depressed and a ‘type A personality’ increased the risk of stroke in a population aged below 65 years living in Madrid. A type A ...

Multiple abortions 'link' to premature births

30th August 2012

NHS Choices: Behind the headlines

“Repeat abortions linked to premature birth,” BBC News has reported, with the Daily Mail website adding that multiple abortions could cause “life-threatening problems in later pregnancy”. The story is based on Finnish research that looked at the effect of induced abortions on a subsequent first birth. The study found that women who had three or more abortions were at slightly increased risk of giving birth prematurely and of having a subsequent low birth weight in the baby. While the Daily Mail’s claims that multiple abortions could lead to “life-threatening problems” is technically correct, its tone is needlessly alarmist. In the ...

4 cups of coffee a day 'protects against bowel cancer'

29th August 2012

NHS Choices: Behind the headlines

‘Six cups of coffee a day could cut the risk of bowel cancer by 40 per cent’ the Daily Mail explains, while The Daily Telegraph points out that just ‘four cups a day’ leads to a 15% rate of reduction. The news follows a long-term study that tracked the behaviour and associated health outcomes (cohort study) of just under half a million Americans over the course of 10 years. At the start of the study participants completed questionnaires on their diet and lifestyle and during the follow-up period the researchers looked at the number of colorectal cancers (commonly known as ...

Nut consumption in pregnancy linked to 'reduced child allergy risk'

29th August 2012

NHS Choices: Behind the headlines

The Daily Telegraph advises that ‘Eating nuts in pregnancy 'reduces chance of childhood allergy'. The report is based on data collected as part of a larger study into the health and lifestyle of Danish women. Researchers asked more than 60,000 women halfway through their pregnancy about their diet, including information on how often they ate nuts. The researchers then checked the health of the women’s babies after they gave birth, specifically looking at whether the child had been diagnosed with asthma by the time they were 18 months, or had symptoms of wheeze. This was followed by a second assessment ...

Marmite 'stops spread' of superbugs

28th August 2012

NHS Choices: Behind the headlines

“Love it or hate it, Marmite could stop the spread of MRSA”, reports The Daily Telegraph. The news is based on the results of a laboratory study which found that vitamin B3, which is found in a number of food products such as Marmite, can increase the ‘germ-killing’ activity of a certain type of white blood cell known as neutrophils. This in turn could help prevent or treat infection with so-called superbugs such as MRSA (meticillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus). However, the claims that Marmite can treat these types of infection is ‘spreading it on a bit thick’. The concentrations of vitamin ...

Does smoking 'dope' turn you into one?

28th August 2012

NHS Choices: Behind the headlines

“Adolescents who are regular users of cannabis are at risk of permanent damage to their intelligence, attention span and memory,” reported the Guardian. The news was based on an impressive and wide-ranging study of 1,037 New Zealand individuals who were followed from birth up to the age of 38. Researchers aimed to investigate the association between persistent cannabis use and mental function over a 20-year period and to see whether greater decline was seen among those who started using cannabis in their teens. They found that those who did and then carried on using cannabis into later life experienced a ...

Measles cases in England 'almost double'

24th August 2012

NHS Choices: Behind the headlines

“Measles cases 'almost double' after outbreaks”, BBC News has reported. The BBC attributes the rise, in part, to recent outbreaks in Sussex and Merseyside. In a balanced report, the BBC cites new infectious disease statistics from the Health Protection Agency (HPA), that it says also show that rubella (German measles) infections are higher than in any of the previous 9 years. What does the HPA say about the number of measles and rubella cases? The HPA says that in the first six months of 2012 there were 964 cases of measles compared to 497 in the same period in 2011. ...

Fertility clue for recurring miscarriage

24th August 2012

NHS Choices: Behind the headlines

‘Super-fertility’ may explain some miscarriages, BBC News has reported. It says that the wombs of some women are ‘too good at letting embryos implant’, even those that are of poor quality and so should be rejected. The story, also covered by The Daily Telegraph, is based on a small laboratory study. In the study, researchers examined the theory that in some women who have suffered unexplained recurrent miscarriages (the loss of three of more consecutive pregnancies) the lining of their womb (uterus) is not able to discriminate between “high-quality” embryos and “low-quality” embryos. These low quality embryos would have little ...

Gastric bypass surgery 'up 530% in 6 years'

24th August 2012

NHS Choices: Behind the headlines

‘Fat Britain’, says the Daily Mail, in a report on the growing number of gastric bypass operations reportedly costing the NHS £85 million a year. The media has reported extensively on weight-loss surgery for obesity today, with The Daily Telegraph saying that the number of gastric bypass operations has risen six-fold in only five years. So far in 2011-12 there have been 1,316 gastric band insertions and 124 gastric band removals performed for obesity under the NHS. This compares with 715 insertions and 11 removals 6 years ago. There have also been 5,407 gastric bypass procedures performed under the NHS ...

Study finds older mums have healthier children

23rd August 2012

NHS Choices: Behind the headlines

“Children born to older women have a better start in life,” the Daily Mail has reported. The news is based on the results of a large study of children born in England that looked at child health and wellbeing and the age of the mother. The research looked at children up to the age of five and assessed unintentional injuries and hospital admissions, immunisations, body mass index, language development and social and emotional development. The study found that increasing maternal age was associated with improved child health and development up to five years of age. This association was independent of ...

First operation of implant for heart failure due

23rd August 2012

NHS Choices: Behind the headlines

A new “gadget” to treat heart failure was widely reported in the media today, with the Daily Express claiming that the implant could “revolutionise the treatment of chronic heart failure and save millions of lives”. The news was also reported by BBC News and The Daily Telegraph. The story is based on a press release from the University of Leicester explaining that the device will be fitted for the first time in a UK patient with chronic heart failure today. The new implant stimulates part of the nerve supply to the heart (the vagus nerve), slowing the heart rate and ...

Can cleaning teeth help prevent dementia?

22nd August 2012

NHS Choices: Behind the headlines

"Women who look after their teeth and gums ‘have lower risk of dementia’”, the Daily Mail says. The news is based on a long-term study in which elderly adults were questioned about their dental health at the start of the study, including whether they had their own teeth or dentures, and then looked at whether they developed dementia during follow-up using information from questionnaires and medical records. The study found that men who were not able to chew well because they had few teeth left and who did not wear dentures had an increased risk of dementia compared with those ...

'Oral sex helps women fight depression' claim

22nd August 2012

NHS Choices: Behind the headlines

“Oral sex is good for women’s health and helps fight depression”, was the Daily Mail’s lurid headline today, while The Sun opted for a more straightforward “Semen is good for you”. The “news” is based on research that is more than 10 years old. The facts used to support the lascivious claims come from a small study looking at depression scores of women students who used condoms during sexual activity compared with those who did not. It found that sexually active women who did not use condoms reported fewer depressive symptoms than those who did. From this the researchers seem ...

Avoid obesity to stave off mental decline

21st August 2012

NHS Choices: Behind the headlines

“Obesity ‘bad for brain’ by hastening cognitive decline”, reports the BBC, with most of the mainstream national media covering the same story. The news is based on the results of a large, long-term UK study. The study assessed whether people were overweight, obese, or had other metabolic problems and then tested their ability in cognitive function tests at intervals over a long period of time. The research found that cognitive decline over a 10-year period was similar in all participants, although participants who were both obese and had metabolic abnormalities showed the greatest decline. It is already well-established that obesity ...