NHS Choices: Behind the headlines

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'Fainting runs in families'

8th August 2012

NHS Choices: Behind the headlines

“Feeling faint? Blame your parents” advises the Daily Mail. The Mail went on to say that scientists have discovered that people who faint “could be genetically pre-disposed to swooning”. The research looked at whether genetic factors are involved in fainting. The researchers examined identical and non-identical twins where at least one twin had a history of fainting. Identical twins share the same DNA, whereas non-identical twins are no more alike than any two non-twin siblings. Therefore, if the researchers found that fainting affected both identical twins more frequently than it affected both non-identical twins, this would suggest that genetic factors ...

Grapefruit juice 'boost cancer drugs'

8th August 2012

NHS Choices: Behind the headlines

“Drinking grapefruit juice can dramatically boost the effectiveness of cancer drugs,” the Daily Express today reported. This headline is based on an early clinical trial investigating the effect of grapefruit juice on the ability to treat terminally ill cancer patients successfully with a drug called sirolimus. Sirolimus is widely used in transplant patients in order to prevent their immune system from rejecting transplanted organs. It is also believed to have the potential to treat certain types of cancers. A drawback is that if it is given in doses high enough to be useful in treating cancer, it can cause unpleasant ...

‘One million people’ with ‘undiagnosed’ chronic kidney disease

7th August 2012

NHS Choices: Behind the headlines

The Daily Mail and other newspapers have reported that up to a million people may have undiagnosed chronic kidney disease (CKD). CKD is a long-term condition that does not cause any symptoms in its initial stages but can potentially lead to premature death or dialysis.. The news is based on an NHS Kidney Care report that examined the impact of CKD and its associated complications and costs to the NHS in England. The researchers looked at several previous well-conducted studies that were seeking to assess how widespread CKD is in England. They then compared the findings of these studies with ...

Weightlifting 'reduces men’s diabetes risk'

7th August 2012

NHS Choices: Behind the headlines

“Pumping weights five times a week can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by a third”, The Daily Telegraph has reported. The news is based on the results of a large US study which found that men who performed weight training reduced their risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Previous research has shown that regular moderate or vigorous physical activity for at least 30 minutes per day reduces risk of type 2. The authors of the study also report that other studies have shown that resistance training can improve blood sugar control in people with diabetes. This is the ...

Chemotherapy ‘encourages cancer’ claims researchers

6th August 2012

NHS Choices: Behind the headlines

“Chemotherapy can actually boost the growth of cancer cells, making the disease harder to fight,” the Metro has gloomily reported . The Metro’s claim focuses on some research that could explain a frustrating problem in cancer treatment.: The majority of advanced cancers, where the cancer has spread to multiple parts of the body (metastatic cancer), become resistant to chemotherapy treatment. This means that the vast majority of metastatic cancers are incurable. This news is based on a study looking at cancer tissue and cells in the laboratory and in mice. Rather than looking at the effects of cancer treatments on ...

Baby talk: survey claims third of baby health websites have ‘wrong information’

6th August 2012

NHS Choices: Behind the headlines

“Be careful what you Google for: Parents warned half of baby health advice online is wrong,” is the startling headline in the Daily Mail. This story is based on a US survey looking at how well 1,300 websites identified by Google searches agreed with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendations on infant sleep safety. Specific questions that the researchers were looking at included: What’s the safest position for a baby to sleep? (On their back, according to the AAP.) Should babies share their beds with others? (No – ideally a baby should sleep by themselves.) What type of surface ...

‘Eve-olution’ – natural selection may help women live longer

3rd August 2012

NHS Choices: Behind the headlines

“Revealed, at last: why women live longer than men” reports The Independent. It says that “a mutation in the power producers of the body's cells is more harmful to males than females”. This news is based on research on the DNA in the “powerhouses” of cells - the mitochondria - in fruit flies, and their influence on aging and lifespan. Most of our genes come in pairs. We receive one of the pair from our mother, and the corresponding gene from our father. But mitochondrial DNA is different in that only females pass on their mitochondria to their offspring. This ...

Pacing 'not cost-effective’ for CFS

2nd August 2012

NHS Choices: Behind the headlines

“Brain training is most cost-effective treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome,” BBC News reports, while pacing therapies (learning to live within limits) “offer little value”. Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a poorly understood and often controversial condition. The most common symptom of CFS is extreme tiredness (fatigue). This news is based on research that aimed to determine how cost-effective four treatment options were for people with CFS. These were: specialist medical care for CFS cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – a type of talking therapy graded exercise therapy – a structured exercise programme that aims gradually to increase how long a person ...

Cancer cell insight may 'revolutionise treatment'

2nd August 2012

NHS Choices: Behind the headlines

“Cancer cell discovery could revolutionise treatment,” said The Independent today. These reports are based on an American study looking at brain cancer in mice. The mice in this study had been genetically engineered to have a highly aggressive form of brain cancer. The cancer often returns after chemotherapy in humans, and has an average survival period of just a year after diagnosis. The scientists who ran the study wanted to see if they could identify a specific group of cancer “stem cells” that might be responsible for the return of the cancer. Stem cells are remarkable cells that can transform ...

Worried to death? – distress linked to early death

1st August 2012

NHS Choices: Behind the headlines

Those with an anxious disposition may want to look away now, but the Telegraph are reporting ‘even low levels of stress or anxiety can increase the risk of fatal heart attacks or stroke by up to a fifth’. This news is based on a well-designed study which pooled data from over 68,000 adults in England and looked at how their levels of psychological distress affected their risk of death from any cause, or due to specific types of conditions such as heart attacks, stroke and cancer.. The people were followed over the course of eight years. The symptoms of psychological ...

UK becoming nation of ‘happy pill poppers’ fears

1st August 2012

NHS Choices: Behind the headlines

The UK is in the grip of a ‘happy pill boom’ according to the Daily Mail, with ‘almost 50 million’ antidepressants prescribed in 2011. The reports are based on figures released today for prescriptions dispensed by GPs, pharmacists and other health professionals in the community during 2011. It shows that antidepressants such as Prozac and Seroxat account for the largest annual rise in prescriptions since 2010. Just under 46.7 million prescriptions for antidepressants were dispensed in 2011, a rise of 3.9 million on 2010. Some newspapers raise concerns that this rise may be the results of GPs looking for a ...

Are we becoming nation of ‘happy pill poppers?'

1st August 2012

NHS Choices: Behind the headlines

The UK is in the grip of a ‘happy pill boom’ according to the Daily Mail, with ‘almost 50 million’ antidepressants prescribed in 2011. The reports are based on figures released today for prescriptions dispensed by GPs, pharmacists and other health professionals in the community during 2011. It shows that antidepressants such as Prozac and Seroxat account for the largest annual rise in prescriptions from 2010 to 2011. Just under 46.7 million prescriptions for antidepressants were dispensed in 2011, a rise of 3.9 million on 2010. Some newspapers raise concerns that this rise may be the results of GPs looking ...

Is ‘nurse burnout’ putting patients at risk of infection?

31st July 2012

NHS Choices: Behind the headlines

“Overworked nurses ‘put patients at greater risk of infection’,” is the headline in the Daily Mail. The news is based on a survey from the US that looked at a combination of: the nurse to patient ratio in from 161 hospitals in Pennsylvania how many cases of two common hospital-acquired infections occurred in these hospitals reported feelings of ‘burnout’ by nurses working in those hospitals There is no precise clinical definition of ‘burnout’, but some experts have described it as a combination of emotional exhaustion and detachment, and a feeling that a person is not performing well in their job. ...

Humans have 'super spidey sense' for danger claim

31st July 2012

NHS Choices: Behind the headlines

BBC News informs us that “Researchers find fear link to Spider-Man”, while the Daily Express breathlessly informs us “just as Spider-Man’s instincts gave him the edge over his arch enemy the Green Goblin… researchers have now found we all have ‘Spidey Sense’ like the web-slinging superhero”. The so-called ‘spidey sense’ is the eponymous superhero’s ability to predict when he is in danger. The headlines are based on a recent experiment assessing whether humans had an ability to respond to threats while not necessarily being consciously aware of them. The news is based on a study in which two different ‘fearful’ ...

Future medics 'not taught about exercise pros'

30th July 2012

NHS Choices: Behind the headlines

Medical students are “not taught activity benefits” BBC News has reported, based on a survey checking how many UK medical schools provided their students with information on the health benefits of physical activity. This led The Daily Telegraph to claim “Doctors are failing to advise patients on the benefits of exercise because its teaching is ‘sparse or non-existent’ in medical schools”. The survey assessed the provision of physical activity teaching in the curricula of all UK medical schools. The survey results uncovered what the authors call “alarming findings”, showing that there is widespread omission of basic teaching elements, such as ...

Whooping cough vaccine plans for pregnant women and teens due to ‘rocketing number of cases’

30th July 2012

NHS Choices: Behind the headlines

‘Pregnant may get whooping cough jab to protect babies as number of cases rockets,’ reports the Mail, after an alarming rise in cases and a reported five infant deaths. The Joint Committee of Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) (a board of specialists that advises on vaccination policy) is considering offering a vaccine against whooping cough to teenagers and pregnant women. The reason this step is being considered is because of an alarming rise in cases, which, as the Mail reports, is the ‘worst outbreak in more than a decade’. Whooping cough is a highly contagious bacteria infection that can cause persistent ...

Two apples a day 'keeps heart doctor away'

27th July 2012

NHS Choices: Behind the headlines

‘Just two apples a day could cut risk of heart disease by cutting cholesterol levels’, the Daily Mail tells us. The news follows a trial in which post-menopausal women who ate either dried apples or prunes (dried plums) every day for a year had their blood cholesterol measured regularly. Researchers found that cholesterol levels were significantly lower in the women who ate dried apples than those who ate dried plums, but only at six months, not at any other time they were measured. Before Granny Smith rushes out to buy a pound of pippins, it is important to remember that ...

Yoga can help stroke patients 'improve balance'

27th July 2012

NHS Choices: Behind the headlines

“Yoga helps stroke patients recover balance,” The Telegraph headlines, saying that stroke victims who took an eight-week course of yoga had better balance and felt more able in their lives as a whole. The headline is in fact a deeply unbalanced summary of research that actually found no significant improvement to balance in people who were assigned to yoga therapy. Of 47 people in the study, 37 were assigned to receive twice-weekly yoga sessions delivered by a trained therapist for eight weeks. The other participants were part of a control group and did not receive yoga therapy. The study used ...

Are couch potatoes “as fit as hunter-gatherers”?

26th July 2012

NHS Choices: Behind the headlines

Good news for couch potatoes, said a story in the Daily Mail today - lack of exercise is not to blame for the obesity crisis. Its report says that contrary to popular opinion, “Westerners” surrounded by mod cons don’t burn any fewer calories than hunter-gatherer African tribes. The news is based on research that assessed how many calories members of an African tribe burned during the course of a day. They then compared the average ‘burn rate’ to previous studies into Western habits. After adjusting for body size and weight they found that the ‘total energy expenditure’ was roughly the ...

Wonder drug that can 'cure stroke'

26th July 2012

NHS Choices: Behind the headlines

The Sun heralds the arrival of a new “wonder pill” that “could cure strokes”. Other newspapers highlight the potential for the drug to “cure Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis”. The headlines are misleading for three main reasons: you can try to prevent a stroke, limit the damage caused by a stroke or reduce the complications of a stroke, but you can’t “cure” a stroke the study only assessed the drug’s effectiveness in treating Alzheimer’s disease the research only involved mice and it is unclear whether the experimental drug would be safe or effective in humans This small study in mice ...