What the scientists are saying…
Hidden dangers of fruit juice Drinking fruit juice at breakfast may sound healthy, but children who do so regularly have a greater chance of becoming overweight, new research suggests. Scientists in Austria examined the breakfast habits of 652 children aged about 13, and then used data on their height and weight to work out which foods had the greatest influence on weight. Most appeared to make little difference, but children who drank juice more than three times a week were found to be 50% likelier to be overweight or obese than those who didn’t. Presenting the findings to the European Congress on Obesity in Vienna, Maria Luger, of the Medical University of Vienna, said that fruit juice’s surprisingly high sugar content means that it can be as calorific as fizzy drinks. “Drink water or unsweetened tea, and if you drink fruit juice, add water,” she advised. The study also found that children who regularly skip breakfast tend to weigh a bit more than those who eat it every day – probably, the researchers speculated, because they become hungrier later on and so consume more unhealthy snacks.
Can seaweed curb cow methane? The environmentally harmful consequences of cows belching out methane could be significantly reduced if seaweed was introduced to their diets, scientists have claimed. Cows are able to survive on a diet of grass because of microbes in their gut that process and ferment high-fibre foods. The process produces large quantities of methane – which cows emit by belching nearcontinuously. In 2015, researchers in Australia found that a compound in certain types of seaweed appears to inhibit an enzyme that produces the methane; in lab conditions, they were able to slash methane emissions by 99%. Now scientists at the University of California have taken the next logical step of adding small amounts of algae to cattle feed. The research is still in its preliminary stages, but team leader Professor Ermias Kebreab described the results as “amazing”, with cows eating the algae-enriched feed showing “substantial emission reductions”.
Lyme disease vaccine A vaccine that provides protection against all major types of Lyme disease has had promising results in clinical trials, says The Sunday Telegraph. The bacterial infection is a growing problem in the northern hemisphere, partly, it’s thought, because global warming has caused the ticks responsible for spreading it to move beyond their traditional habitats. Lyme disease isn’t always serious, but in some cases it produces debilitating long-term symptoms – including joint pain, memory loss and exhaustion. The vaccine, developed by French drug company Valneva, works by stimulating antibodies that attack the Lyme bacteria in the tick’s gut as it feeds on the human host – preventing the bacteria from entering the human bloodstream. In its first round of human trials, the vaccine was between 71.4% and 96.4% effective – a rate that Valneva hopes to improve. David Lawrence, the company’s chief financial officer, said it could be available to the public within five years.
Obesity linked to 12 cancers Obesity plays a role in as many as 12 types of cancer, according to a major analysis of the causes of the disease. The report by the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) found that while smoking remains the biggest cause of cancer, it may soon be overtaken by obesity in many countries, including the UK. In an earlier version of the report, released a decade ago, the WCRF identified seven cancers linked to obesity. Now, it says, the evidence points to 12: liver, ovaries, prostate (advanced), stomach, mouth and throat, bowel, breast (post-menopause), gall bladder, kidney, oesophagus, pancreas and womb. The report says that up to four in ten cancer cases are preventable, and urges nonsmokers to adopt a ten-point health plan, which includes cutting down on bacon and processed meats, being physically active and reducing alcohol intake.
Health stat: alcohol-free beer Sales of alcohol-free beer have surged 64% in a year – the result, say analysts, of improved recipes and greater awareness of the health risks of alcohol. The trend is especially marked among over-45s.