Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Is it time to ditch your morning juice?

Fruit juices and blended smoothies continue to be a popular health craze. Yet these are not as healthy as you may think.

Many people have a juice or smoothie with their breakfast to give themselves a nutrient boost for the day ahead. But the morning is a key time of day to take medicines, particularly for those on daily long-term medication. And taking certain medicines with fruit juice could be hazardous to your health, by increasing or decreasing the amount of medicine entering your bloodstream.

Last month, an article in The Pharmaceutical Journal highlighted interactions between fruit juice and common medicines.  There's evidence that grapefruit juice in particular can interact with a range of medicines, including some blood pressure pills and statins. Other juices, including apple, orange and cranberry, may also pose problems. Patients taking warfarin (a commonly prescribed blood thinning drug) are advised to avoid drinking cranberry juice unless the health benefits are considered to outweigh the risks. If they do have a regular intake of cranberry juice or cranberry products, they should be monitored carefully to make sure the warfarin is working and their blood is clotting properly.

If you're worried about fruit juice interacting with any of your medicines, speak to your pharmacist. And if you are on regular medication, maybe it's time to switch to taking your medicines with a glass of water instead (unless otherwise advised).

According to the British Soft Drinks Association's 2014 'UK Soft Drinks Report', sales of 100% fruit juices and smoothies are actually in decline. Carbonates remain the largest soft drinks sector (45%) followed by dilutables (22%), bottled water (16%), still and juice drinks (£10%) and fruit juice (just 7%). Bottled water was the fastest-growing soft drinks category in 2013, as 'consumers looked for hydration without calories'.

Currently, a 150ml glass of unsweetened fruit juice counts towards our 'five a day'. But in November 2014, campaign group Action on Sugar warned that these drinks could be doing more harm than good, contributing to tooth decay, obesity and type-2 diabetes. Many children's juices contain at least six teaspoons of sugar and come in cartons larger than the recommended size.

Following the Action on Sugar report, the British Dental Health Foundation warned that fruit smoothies contain very high levels of sugar and acid and can damage teeth, leading to tooth decay and dental erosion. Every time you sip on a fruit smoothie, your teeth are placed under acid attack for up to an hour. It's estimated that around one in three adults in England has tooth decay, which is often triggered by overexposure to sugary food and drink. Tooth decay is currently the most common reason for children in the UK to be admitted to hospital.

In August 2013, research published in the British Medical Journal revealed that nurses who ate whole fruits (e.g. blueberries, grapes and apples) were at a lower risk of developing type-2 diabetes, while those who drank fruit juice were at an increased risk. 

If research continues to discovers that fruit juices and smoothies are not necessarily the healthiest option, perhaps it's time to rethink your preferred breakfast drink.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Please stop the heart status - and do something more educational

Over the last few days, my Facebook newsfeed has been filled with friends posting hearts in all manner of colours and sizes on their status - or, in some cases, on other people's Facebook walls.


Because someone somewhere thinks that this helps to raise awareness of breast cancer - and they started the whole 'game' rolling.

Apparently, the private message being sent through Facebook is:

"I nominate you for the 'Most loving and prettiest Mum Award'. You must send to 12 mums. 'You're a beautiful mum,doing a great job and you're so loved!' Hit 12 mums who put their kids first. xx. 

Without replying to this message, put a heart on your wall, no comment, just a heart. Next, post a heart on the wall of the person who sent you this message. Then send this message to all of your women friends, only women. 

If anyone asks why your wall has so many hearts on it - do not tell them. This is only for women because it is breast cancer research week. One small act of solidarity. Xxx"

In the past, I have also noticed Facebook friends posting silly obscure statements, sharing the colour of their underwear or marital status, or changing their profile picture, all with the intention of raising awareness of breast cancer.

Why do I have a problem with this?

1. It's just a heart (or two in some cases). It isn't accompanied by any educational facts, any statistics, any advice, not even a mention of breast cancer.
A couple of friends admitted to me today that they had no idea why people were posting a heart on Facebook - so how does that raise awareness of anything?

2. There probably isn't anyone who doesn't know breast cancer exists. Education is awareness, not hearts on Facebook statuses, as there's a lot of myth-busting to do.

3. Breast cancer affects people of all ages, with or without kids, so has nothing to do with motherhood - and definitely nothing to do with being a good mum or not.

4. Breast cancer is not just a woman's disease. True, it's rare in men, but breast cancer still strikes 350 men every year in the UK. Men should be checking themselves regularly, just as women do. According to Cancer Research UK, most cases are diagnosed in men between the ages of 60 and 70. In fact, I have a male cousin in the USA who has the BRCA gene and was diagnosed three years ago with breast cancer. He had a double mastectomy and is now cancer free.

5. Breast cancer shouldn't be a secret issue - it has an impact on all friends and family members (children, partners, siblings, parents, grandparents, cousins etc …). It shouldn't be ignored and it certainly shouldn't be a taboo subject.

6. Breast cancer shouldn't be treated as a game. Every year, nearly 55,000 people are diagnosed with the disease in the UK, that's equivalent to one person every 10 minutes. It's no laughing matter.

7. If people want to raise awareness of any health issue by posting a picture on their Facebook status, at least also give people some facts, some advice and/or some statistics, like how to spot the signs, where to seek help and the name of the relevant charities and organisations.

My response?
This morning I posted my own Facebook status raising awareness of breast cancer:

"Every year, nearly 55,000 people are diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK, that's equivalent to one person every 10 minutes. Breast cancer is rare in men, with only 350 cases being diagnosed annually. But it's certainly not just a woman's disease. Men should do regular checks too."

My challenge

This morning I also set myself a challenge. Whenever there is a health awareness day/week/month in the UK and I have access to Facebook, I plan to give my Facebook friends some relevant educational facts.