The truth behind the headlines

Friday 31st January

Sugar - “Sugar is now enemy number one in the western diet”  - The Guardian

What’s the problem?

Essentially, the human body doesn’t need added, refined sugar. But our diets are full of it. And it’s not just the usual suspects - fizzy drinks and sweets - but also the majority of processed foods and a surprising number of “low fat” or “healthy” foods. Take a look at any diet food in the fridge - chances are the fat content is low, but the sugar level is high. The health issue is that unless the calories we get from sugar are used, they are immediately stored as fat. With rates of obesity on the up - initial predictions that 50% of the UK population will be obese by 2050 are now reckoned to be an underestimation - controlling sugar consumption is a priority.

What you need to know

The NHS advises that we don’t get more than 10% of our energy (calorie) intake per day from sugar. This is about 70g (roughly four tablespoons) for men and 50g for women, but it varies depending on your size, age and how active you are. For most people, it won’t hurt to cut down.

Things that you can do to reduce your sugar intake are:

Check out your cereals. Cereals often have a lot of added sugar - even the low fat ones. Try porridge instead.
Fruit juices, smoothies and flavoured water. These are often seen as healthy alternatives to pop, but in fact contain a surprising amount of sugar. If you can, dilute your drinks, or stick to good old fashioned water.
Processed bread. The sugar in processed bread can be as high as 3g per slice. Choosing bread from a bakery (as opposed to pre-packed off the shelf), or making your own is a good place to start.
Savoury doesn’t mean low sugar. Savoury foods can contain lots of added sugar. Check out the labels so you know just how much you’re getting.
Whole foods tell the whole story. A good rule of thumb is that unprocessed food won’t have added sugar. Processed foods - ready meals, jar sauces and the like - are worth examining to see what they contain.

Sources:

http://www.nhs.uk/livewell/goodfood/pages/sugars.aspx
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-magazine-monitor-25666556
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jan/11/sugar-is-enemy-number-one-now
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jan/09/end-excess-sugar-consumption

Gout - “Why boozy Britain is the gout capital of Europe: One in 40 diagnosed with condition” - Daily Mail

Gout is often seen as a condition suffered by 18th century aristocrats, not something we need to worry about today. But it seems that cases are on the increase. Gout is a type of arthritis where crystals of sodium urate produced by the body form inside joints, often in the big toe. It’s more common in men than women, and is excruciatingly painful.

What’s the problem?

A recent study has shown that 1 in 40 people in the UK are affected by it. The reason for this lies in lifestyle choices, particularly being overweight or obese and having a purine-rich diets.

What you need to know

Most people can greatly reduce their risk of gout. Being overweight is one of the biggest contributing factors, so a healthy diet and plenty of exercise will help. If you eat a diet heavy in purines - found in sardines, liver, beer and spirits - then you may be increasing your chance of developing the condition. If you have diabetes, long-term kidney problems or a family history of gout, you may also be at risk.

If you suspect you have gout, visit your GP: they will help you relieve symptoms now and prevent flare ups in the future.

Sources:

http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/gout/Pages/Introduction.aspx
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-25742467
http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/gout-cases-explode-as-doctors-warn-that-the-condition-affects-one-in-40-britons-9062511.html?origin=internalSearch

Smear tests - “Women over 50 urged not to skip smear tests” - BBC

Smear tests detect abnormal cells on the cervix - it’s not a test to detect cancer, but rather to look at the health of cervical cells. In England, Northern Ireland and Wales, women between 25 and 49 are reminded to have a smear test every three years. Between 50 and 64, that goes down to once every five years. In Scotland, women are invited to have the test every three years between 20 and 60.

Around 1 in 20 smear tests come back with abnormal results. This does not mean you have, or will get, cancer. The treatment you then receive will depend on the abnormality. Sometimes the cells revert to normal by themselves, and sometimes they are removed.

What’s the problem?

Cervical screening in the over 50s can dramatically decrease the chance of developing cervical cancer right into a woman’s eighties. However, the number of women attending smear tests once they’re over 50 is declining. As cervical cancer is a largely preventable disease, this is a worrying trend.

What you need to know

Don’t put it off. If you’ve received a reminder about your smear test, if you think you might be due to have one, or you’re simply not sure, get in touch with your GP. Whilst some women find them a little embarrassing, smear tests are quick and painless, and a reliable way to protect yourself from developing cervical cancer.

Sources:

http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/cervical-screening-test/pages/introduction.aspx
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-25730857

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