Should link between dementia and artificial sweeteners be taken with a pinch of salt?

How peoples capacity for forgetfulness and lies may have impacted on research tying stroke and dementia to diet drinks

They were supposed to be the healthy alternative to their sugar-rich siblings. But now lovers of diet colas and other low-calorie drinks have been hit by news that will radically undermine those credentials: a counterintuitive analyse suggesting a link to stroke and dementia.

The study in the publication Stroke may cause a rethink among the persons worried about obesity, diabetes or a possible early heart attack from sugar-rich beverages who have been considering making a change. It comes to the alarming conclusion that people polishing off one can a day of artificially sweetened drink are nearly three times as likely to have a stroke or develop dementia.

Its a shocking conclusion. But the first reason to intermission is that the study determined no such hazard in people who drank standard sugary lemonades and colas.

There is little previous evidence with regard to dementia, which is why the researchers were looking at it, but the link between sugar and stroke is very well known. Too much sugar raises the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart attacks and stroke. Its altogether a bad thing, which is why the World Health Organisation is telling us all to cut down. So “whats going on” in this study?

The evidence it analyses is pulled from the well-respected Framingham Heart Study a cohort of more than 5,000 people in Massachusetts, US, whose diets and lifestyles have been monitored for nearly 50 years, with the main objective of used to identify more about heart disease. Along the route, researchers have looked at other health outcomes.

What they are up against is people capability for forgetfulness and lies. This is the case with every analyze into the food we eat except for those rare ones, almost impossible to do today, which have in effect incarcerated their subjects and controlled every sip and mouthful they took.Researchers understand this and to continue efforts to take account of it, but it is difficult.

There are several possible other reasons why an increased stroke hazard was associated with diet drinkings and not sugary drinks. One is what is called reversal causality. People who come to realise that they are ill and have a high risk of a stroke then switch their behaviour by choosing diet drinks long after sugary beverages have helped cause the problem.

When it came to dementia, the link with diet drinks that researchers ensure disappeared once they took specific aspects of the health of the people in the study into account. When the researchers accounted for other determining factor for Alzheimers, such as risk genes, diabetes, heart disease, cholesterol levels and weight, this significant association was lost, suggesting that these drinks are not the whole story, said Dr Rosa Sancho, head of research at Alzheimers Research UK.

The researchers point to it themselves: We are unable to determine whether artificially sweetened soft drink intake increased the risk of incident dementia through diabetes mellitus or whether people with diabetes mellitus were simply more likely to devour diet liquors, they write. But they call for more research and others will support them in that.

Artificial sweeteners have been viewed with mistrust by a lot of consumers for many years and not entirely deservedly. They are not natural, in the way that sugar is natural, being grown from beet or cane. Some of the hostility comes from those who worry about ingesting man-made chemicals. But while some artificial flavourings have been shown to carry health risks, examines have failed to find similar problems with artificial sweeteners.

Aspartame has been extremely controversial since its approval for utilize by several European countries in the 1980 s, says NHS Choices. In 1996, a study connected it to an increase in brain tumours. However, the study had very few scientific basis and later analyzes showed that aspartame was in fact safe to devour, says the NHS.

Large analyses have also been carried out to look at whether the sweetener increased cancer dangers, and gave it a clean bill of health. The European Food Safety Authority said in 2013 it was safe even for pregnant women and children, except for anyone with a rare genetic condition called phenylketonuria.

Dumping aspartame from its low calorie bestseller did not give PepsiCo the halo impact it hoped. In 2015, it announced it was taking the sweetener some people love to dislike out of Diet Pepsi and replacing it with sucralose. A year later, when it became clear Coca Cola would not follow suit and that fans favor their drink the style it used to be, it did a U-turn and set aspartame back in.

There have been huge efforts to develop artificial sweeteners that will taste as good as sugar and be acceptable to the doubters. Stevia, a plant extract, is marketed as a natural sweetener to the increasingly sceptical health-conscious.

Now it is not just drinks. Public Health England is putting pressure on food companies to cut 20% of sugar from their products by 2020. That will probably mean smaller chocolate bars, where artificial sweeteners merely wont deliver the same savour. But they will be part of the answer in other foods.

Sweeteners such as sucralose, which is 650 periods sweeter than sugar, have long been in breakfast cereals and salad dressings, while saccharin is in store-bought cakes, despite a scare over bladder cancer which caused the Canadian government to ban it as an additive in 1977. It lifted the ban in 2014. The safety debate will go on, but artificial sweeteners are likely to play a bigger part in our diet as the squeeze on sugar ramps up.

There are those, however, who suppose artificial sweeteners will never be the answer to obesity and the diseases that follow in its wake. The problem, in their view, is our sweet tooth and the answer is to reduce our liking for sweetness. So they want to see the gradual reduction of the amount of sugar in our drinkings and our food and snacks without it.

It worked with salt, says Cash, the campaign for action on salt and health, which did much to bring down the salt levels in our food without our noticing it. The same should be possible for sugar. But not if artificial replaces are used to keep our food and drinks tasting just as sweet as they did before.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Kratom has been saved- for now. Make sure the government hears your voice | Paul Pelosi Jr

The DEAs reversal on kratom is a major victory. But the final judgment on its legal status is still to come, and your views could make all the difference

As director of the American Kratom Association, I know that huge numbers of people in this country have legally use kratom as an alternative to pharmaceutical drugs in order to relieve ache, ease symptoms of opiate withdrawal and treat PTSD. Kratom is a natural botanical substance, removed from a tree which belongs to the coffee family and working is native to south-east Asia. The herb merely attained headlines, however, on 30 August, when the Drug Enforcement Agency( DEA) announced its intention to schedule kratom as an illegal substance.

In response to the DEAs move, an impressive alliance of veterans, congresspeople, senators, consumers and human rights activists raised their voices. It is a relief the DEA has now decided to listen to public commentaries. It will review those comments and continue to consult until 1 December, before making a final scheduling decision.

This DEA action is a major victory. Reversing the intended outlaw on kratom can be viewed as the first step towards undoing the harm caused by four decades of the area of combating medications. Since 1961, the official solution to narcotic usage problems has been to criminalize personal medication possession rather than investing resources in programs to decrease the risk associated with drug use and provide voluntary therapy options for people struggling with dependency. This must stop.

The government is now severely reviewing scientific research which I believe demonstrates that kratom is a safe medical alternative to opioid use. Further study will probably prove our position, confirming that kratom has medical benefits. As a outcome, Americans will have at their disposal a tea-like beverage, rather than powerful prescription drugs, that could help reduce pain, anxiety, PTSD, and addiction.

I have expended day with US army veteran David Dasilma, who explained how his own life dramatically improved when he switched to kratom from exorbitantly overpriced prescription drugs. He “re not alone”. Veterans who have been pumped full of opioids and built up tolerance to traditional methods of pain management have found kratom to be a great solution.

The DEA reversal on kratom are in accordance with statements constructed recently by President obama. For too long we viewed drug addiction through the lenses of criminal justice, he said. The most important thing is preventive therapy for our veterans, inducing it as public health concern and not a criminal problem.

The government has shown signs of changing towards a new practice of cautiously governing and aggressively researching other herbs in order to understand the benefits and hazards before making any determinations. One instance is that the Veteran Administration is now considering marijuana as an alternative technique of easing pain. Many believe, as I do, that kratom is also a potential solution for many veterans.

I urge you to make an official comment via government channels before 1 December, here. It is time to support veterans and others right to choose their own pain relief, anxiety and dependency supporting protocol.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Kratom has been saved- for now. Make sure the government hears your voice | Paul Pelosi Jr

The DEAs reversal on kratom is a major victory. But the final judgment on its legal status is still to come, and your views could make all the difference

As director of the American Kratom Association, I know that huge numbers of people in this country have legally employed kratom as an alternative to pharmaceutical narcotics in order to relieve pain, ease symptoms of opiate withdrawal and treat PTSD. Kratom is a natural botanical substance, removed from a tree which belongs to the coffee family and is native to south-east Asia. The herb only attained headlines, however, on 30 August, when the Drug Enforcement Agency( DEA) announced its intention to schedule kratom as an illegal substance.

In response to the DEAs move, an impressive coalition of veterans, congresspeople, senators, consumers and human rights activists raised their voices. It is a relief the DEA has now decided to listen to public remarks. It will review those comments and continue to consult until 1 December, before making a final scheduling decision.

This DEA action is a major victory. Reversing the intended prohibition on kratom can be viewed as the first step towards undoing the harm caused by four decades of the area of combating medications. Since 1961, the official solution to narcotic utilization problems has been to criminalize personal medication possession rather than investing resources in programs to decrease the risk associated with drug use and offer voluntary therapy options for people struggling with dependency. This must stop.

The government is now seriously reviewing scientific research which I believe be shown that kratom is a safe medical alternative to opioid use. Further study will probably demonstrate our position, confirming that kratom has medical benefits. As a result, Americans will have at their disposal a tea-like beverage, rather than powerful prescription drugs, that could help reduce ache, nervousnes, PTSD, and addiction.

I have expended day with US army veteran David Dasilma, who explained how his own life dramatically improved when he switched to kratom from exorbitantly overpriced prescription drugs. He “re not alone”. Veterans who have been pumped full of opioids and built up tolerance to traditional methods of pain management help find kratom to be a great solution.

The DEA reversal on kratom is consistent with statements induced recently by President Barack Obama. For too long we viewed drug addiction through the lenses of criminal justice, he said. The most important thing is preventive therapy for our veterans, stimulating it as public health fear and not war criminals problem.

The government has shown signs of changing towards a new practise of cautiously governing and aggressively researching other herbs in order to understand the benefits and dangers before making any determinations. One example is that the Veterans Administration is now considering marijuana as an alternative technique of easing pain. Many believe, as I do, that kratom is also a potential solution for many veterans.

I urge you to make an official comment via government channels before 1 December, here. It is time to support veterans and others right to choose their own pain relief, nervousnes and dependence subsistence protocol.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Gay humen can’t donate blood to victims of the Orlando shooting. That’s absurd | John Paul Brammer

Everyones first response after an inhumanity like this is to ask how they can help. Gay and bisexual men are stymied in their attempts to do so by an outdated law

Last night at Pulse, an LGBT nightclub in Orlando, Florida, 50 of our LGBT brothers and sisters were taken from us.

Today, like so many others in my community, I am overcome with a sense of helplessness. I am overcome with the advise to do something, anything, to help the victims and their families. Many in Orlando feel a similar urge. People are lining up to give blood in the wake of the massacre.

But gay and bisexual men who want to give today are encountering an obstacle: the FDA requires a year of celibacy before men who have sex with humen can donate blood.

These new rules were put into practice in late 2015. They were presented as an end to the ban on homosexual humen blood but they are continuing mean even gay men who have been in a wholly monogamous relationship for a year are barred from donating.

Regulations against gay blood reached in 1983 in response to the panic surrounding the HIV/ Aids epidemic. The American Medical Association called for an aim to the ban in 2013, saying it was discriminatory and without a sound scientific basis. HIV-positive donors can be screened out and merely one in 2m HIV infections are caused by transfusions .

In short, the prohibition on lesbian blood is unjustified. Other countries, such as Argentina, have already done away with it.

Misinformation spread on social media Sunday, saying that the ban on homosexual blood has been temporarily lifted in Orlando because of high require. This is actually false, as local donor service OneBlood corroborates.

It is an outrage that our blood can be spilled but not donated. It is an outrage that, despite the facts and despite calls to lift the ban from experts in different regions of the country, homophobia and lesbian panic keeps it in place. Thank God for groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations, one Muslim group mobilizing support to keep blood furnishes up.

As we celebrate Pride and yes, we will celebrate even in the wake of tragedy, as we always have let us remember our revolutionary roots. Above all, Pride is a gala of resistance. It is a gala of our audacity to exist.

And so, in the spirit of Pride, in the spirit of Stonewall, in the spirit of our LGBT family members who have been stolen from us too soon, let us continue to resist.

Today is a painful reminder that there are still so many combats left for us to battle. The oppressive, outdated policy on faggot blood is one, and it must come to an end. I look forward to a future where we can express our solidarity with those who are harmed or in need through our required donations.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

How we stimulated Musical Youth’s Pass the Dutchie

We met Michael Jacksons snake, made a movie with Mr T, and were the first black band to be interviewed on MTV. It was a relief to get back to school

Dennis Seaton, singer

We were all still schoolkids in Birmingham when the band was formed. Patrick and Freddie ” Junior ” Waite’s dad was a reggae musician and he taught us how to play. He also sang on our first two songs, Political and Generals, but when the ways were played by DJ John Peel, music industry people said:” You can’t have an old geezer singing if you’re called Musical Youth .” So I became the lead singer, aged 11. The chap who signed us to MCA told us the company chuckled at him for signing schoolboys.

We played reggae makes and some of our own songs, mostly in West Indian running men’s clubs. When we played the Mighty Diamonds’ sung Pass the Kouchie at Heaven in London while supporting Culture Club, 3,000 people went crazy. It was a anthem about a big marijuana bong, so the record company asked us to do something about the lyrics. We changed kouchie to dutchie, which is a West Indian cooking pot, and switched” How does it feel when you’ve got no herb ?” to” got no food “. Kelvin Grant, who played guitar, added the rapping.

When we recorded the anthem, we couldn’t play it short enough for a seven-inch single, so the producer cut the tape and spliced it back together. Don Letts built a video of us by the Thames in which a truancy officer chases us, trying to get us into school.

The song went to No 1 and sold 5m transcripts worldwide. After it reached the top 10 in America, we went to Michael Jackson’s house. He had a chimp called Bubbles and a serpent called Muscles, which slithered around his room. He told us Muscles, the track he wrote for Diana Ross, was about the serpent. We made a movie with Mr T in Hollywood and were the first black band to be interviewed on MTV. In a route, it was a relief to get back to school and restore some normality.

Because we were so young, we were only allowed to work 42 days a year, which scuppered our career. It took 18 years to see any money. I’m a health and safety professional now. I miss hanging out with my friends, but I’m proud that Michael Grant and I have maintained playing. When we do 80 s-themed celebrations, I’m still the youngest performer there.

Musical Musical Youth … clockwise from top left: Junior and Patrick Waite, Dennis Seaton, Michael and Kelvin Grant at Capital Radio, London, in 1982. Photo: Rex/ Shutterstock

Michael Grant, keyboards

We were exposed to sexuality, drugs and rock’n’roll at the age of 13. We saw things like DJs putting their hands down women’s tops- they’d be sacked on the spot today. Not all of us succumb to the various temptations, though. If “youre starting” taking drugs at that age, you’re not going to be around for long.

Patrick, our bass player, was a really quiet, lovely guy. You’d guess butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth. Sadly, he ended up doing all sorts of craziness and died of a heart condition when he was 24. His brother Freddie, our drummer, couldn’t manage reputation- nor the pressure when success stopped. He started having mental problems and was diagnosed as schizophrenic. The last period I find him, he asked me: “Where’s Patrick?” It violated my heart.

Patrick succumbed broke and we’ve had court combats over Pass the Dutchie. We didn’t get songwriting credits, even though we’d changed the lyrics and the arrangement. Years afterward, the record company settled with us and we got some fund. I don’t feel hard done by, though, as the highs outweighed the lows. I met Michael Jackson, Paul and Linda McCartney, James Brown, Prince and Donna Summer. We did things a kid could only dream of. At one point, I was jamming with Stevie Wonder in his Wonderland studio.

The The stuff of dreams … Michael Grant with Michael Jackson at the 1983 Brit awards. Photograph: Richard Young/ Rex/ Shutterstock

Back then, I was too young to buy cars or homes. All I wanted was a BMX Super Burner bike. When the record company dropped us, I asked the accountant:” Does this entail I’ll have to sell my motorcycle ?” He told me:” No. You can keep your motorcycle .”

Musical Youth’s new album, When Reggae Was King, is out now; musicalyouth.net. They play the Absolute Eighties Weekender at Butlin’s, Bognor Regis, on 5 October

‘Why would we invest in a disabled person? ‘: struggle bigotry in Mozambique | Lucy Lamble

In poorer countries, more than 80% of people with disabilities are unemployed and struggling to survive. A educate strategy is helping break down barriers

At 21, Mateus Mbazo from Sofala province in Mozambique faced a stark selection: starve or steal. Recently orphaned, with physical disabilities on his right side affecting his arm and leg, Mbazo had to feed himself and his two younger friends. He had missed out on schooling, and get a job to earn even a meagre sum was a difficult task so a life as a petty burglar seemed the only option.

At his church that he heard about an initiative that would change his life: a programme offering training for people with disabilities.

Now 23, his biggest fear is not how to be offered their own families, but defending the plentiful harvest in his market garden business from local goats, who love to munch on his crops. On his carefully tended plot, lent by the landowner, onions, tomatoes, cabbages, buds and lettuce are flourishing.

Mbazo’s success is unusual in Mozambique, where people with disabilities are four times more likely to be out of work than their contemporaries. In some places, stigma, such as fear of contagion, persists. This reflects the broader painting within the developing world, where it’s estimated that between 80 -9 0 %~ ATAGEND of disabled people are unemployed- by comparison in the UK that figure is 52 %.

Mbazo’s training came from international organisation Light for the World together with social enterprise Young Africa. They are working to give people with disabilities the skills to make a living and in a programme in Sofala, have taught 160 young people- alongside more than 13,500 able-bodied students- in topics from tailoring and cooking to welding and electrical engineering.

Young Africa’s director, Aksana Varela, and her squad are proud of their efforts: the centre has been fitted out with ramps, lecturers have been trained in sign language and assistive computer software installed in the library.

Priority is given to the most disadvantaged.

Chef Joana Nhantote, 27, knows how difficult it can be to persuade employers to look beyond a disability. She lost her hearing at 13.

” It was hard to[ find] a job … not because of the work itself, but because of the discrimination for me being deaf ,” she signs.

Joana Joana Nhantote, 27, a cook at Brasibeira restaurant in Beira. Photograph: Carlos Litulo/ For Light for the World

Now in a permanent job, she says:” It is a bit different from cooking at home. I didn’t know the ingredients, the type of flavouring and how you use it, but now since I finished the course, I can distinguish one from another. I’m a better cook. I love working here .”

Restaurant owner Dauva Barrientos admits that initially she found it hard to develop Nhantote.” But then I stopped and thought to myself- I need to understand how she does things and how she can best understand me. Whatever I do in the kitchen or here at the restaurant she understands me immediately. I do things and I show her, and then she sees whatever I am doing and she does it exactly how I did it. She’s very smart .”

Marta Lucas, 13, in her classroom at the 25 September primary school in Buzi district, Mozambique. Photograph: Carlos Litulo/ Light for the World

” Everyone understands that this is a good way to include people in society but we need to build a strong network involving other sectors like education and health and we need to look more at the decision-making level .”

Shakespeare says governments can see the value.” This is a hard-to-reach population that are sometimes written off as hopeless but here we have CBR joining the dots, joining the people to existing services and enabling them to be economically productive. Its what everyone wants .”

Market gardener Mateus Mbazo is in no doubt of the power of the initiative.” My dream is to develop my skills and become a famous farmer ,” he says.

Most in US suppose cannabis has health benefits, despite lack of data- analyze

Survey respondents believe drug can alleviate various ailments, even as scientists call out for more research

Americans believe marijuana is helpful in treating a variety of health problems despite a lack of available evidence supporting it, a new survey observed.

The results, to be published in the upcoming issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, prove the most respondents believe smoking marijuana can help with pain management and then MS. Just under half believe it can alleviate insomnia, nervousnes and depression, ailments for which marijuana’s efficacy and safety have not been established by scientists.

” They believe things that we have no data for ,” said the study’s lead author, Dr Salomeh Keyhani, a professor of general internal medicine at the University of California San Francisco medical school.

Of the 16,000 respondents to the online survey, 14.6% said they had employed marijuana in the past year, lower than in the country at large, according to a 2017 survey.

In the US, marijuana’s unique legal situation complicates efforts to study and obtain accurate information about the drug’s harms and benefits.

According to the US Drug Enforcement Administration, the agency responsible for drug law enforcement, marijuana is a schedule I drug, meaning that it has serious hazards and no medical benefits. Other drugs in this category include heroin and LSD.

This restricted status makes it difficult for scientists to study marijuana, especially its health benefits.

” We need better data ,” Keyhani said.” We need any data .”

She attributes the gaps between public perception and proved science largely to commercialization of the narcotic in several US countries, which has led to advertising and media coverage.

Thirty-one
Thirty-one US countries have decriminalize cannabis for medical use. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/ PA

To pro-cannabis activists, the lack of traditional research gives credibility to anecdotal evidence, or allows them to point to research on animals or from pre-clinical lab examines not normally used to demonstrated a substance’s medical benefits for humans.

At the same time, marijuana’s schedule I status “ve lost” credibility in recent years. In June, the US Food and Drug Administration( FDA) approved Epidiolex, a first for a drug derived from the marijuana plant. The narcotic, developed by the UK firm GW Pharmaceuticals, won approval to treat certain severe pediatric epilepsy disorders.

In addition, 31 US nations have legalized medical marijuana for a wide various forms of illnesses, such as post-traumatic stress ailment, for which there is not medical proof of efficacy. To alleviate the current opioids crisis some nations, including New York, are willing to allow anyone prescribed an opioid wide latitude to replace it with medical marijuanas.

The survey also procured 18% of US adults believe smoking marijuana is somewhat or completely safe for adults. A smaller segment of the population, 7.3% believe it is somewhat or completely safe for children to be exposed to secondhand pot smoke and that marijuana use is safe during pregnancy. These faiths do not have a basis in mainstream science.

The most common perils respondents associated with marijuanas use were legal problems, addiction and impaired memory.

A recent analyze in the Lancet determined marijuana does not reduce chronic ache or help replace opioids.

However, a different recent analyze published in the periodical Addiction procured an association between states which have decriminalize medical marijuana and a reduction in prescriptions for schedule III opioids. It did not find evidence of drops in prescriptions for more powerful schedule II opioids.

Mixed signals regarding marijuana’s potential dangers and benefits have enabled the commercial marijuana industry to promote a maximalist view of marijuana’s possible benefits. Since direct unproven claims of marijuana’s medical benefits, and affirms such as that a product cures cancer, can lead to unwanted attention from the FDA regulators, cannabis companies have learned to be much more subtle.

Starting with the largely uncontested assertion that no one has ever died from a marijuana overdose, companies will often go on to promote softer, if still unproven , notions of cannabis’s curative properties. For instance, the website of the California company Papa& Barkley features testimonies from customers who say the company’s products alleviated their arthritis ache, nervousnes, insomnia and a guitarist’s thumb cramps.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Celebrating gay pride in Uganda: ‘We want to show that we’re not aliens’

( CNN) Uganda’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex( LGBTI) community is preparing for its annual lesbian pride parade, taking place on Saturday 8 August. This year’s event has special significance — it’s been a year since the controversial anti-gay law was scrapped.

Pride parades are held all over the world and are an opportunity for the LGBTI community to come together and raise awareness of their rights — and Uganda has been no different.

The inaugural homosexual pride march was held in the city of Entebbe, some 20 miles south of the capital Kampala, in 2012. That was also the year the anti-homosexuality bill was tabled. “Organizing pride at that point was an act of defiance, ” explains Neela Ghoshal, senior researcher on the LGBT rights program at Human Rights Watch. “It was the LGBTI community saying: ‘We are here and we are not going away.'”

Swallowable gastric balloon could help the obese lose weight without surgery

Although not a replacing for bariatric surgery, temporary balloon could be used as early intervention or for those who do not want, or cannot have, surgery

A balloon that can be swallowed and then filled with water while in the stomach can help obese people to lose large amounts of weight without invasive surgery, a new study has shown.

Bariatric surgery to reduce the size of the stomach is highly effective, but anaesthesia for somebody who is very overweight can be risky. Those who want to undergo the surgery must also undergo a long period of preparation to ready them physically and psychologically. It is expensive, and there is a long waiting list in the UK, even though NHS guidance recommends it be considered.

Gastric band graphic

The balloon is swallowed like a pill, but with a long thin tube attached. Ultrasound is used to determine when the balloon comes into force in the belly, and it is then filled with water through the tube. The tubing then detaches and is pulled back up the throat and out.

Unlike gastric surgery, the balloon is a temporary measure. After 16 weeks, it bursts in the belly, the water is released and the balloon itself is excreted.

A small study presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Porto, Portugal, showed that the 38 patients enrolled in the trial had lost a entail 15.2 kg( 33.5 lbs) by the end of the 16 weeks, which amounted to about a third( mean 31%) of their excess weight.

At the end of the 16 weeks, the patients were encouraged to eat a Mediterranean diet to try to maintain their weight loss.

Obesity experts say the balloon could be useful in the NHS which has no approved weight loss drugs as yet but point out that it is not a substitute for bariatric surgery, which can deliver lifelong change.

The technology in and of itself is interesting but you have really got to deal with peoples eating behaviour before you intervene, said Professor Jason Halford of the European Association for the Study of Obesity.

Anybody who has any sort of gastric balloon or sleeve which curtails the size of the stomach has to change their eating habits. There are some foods they cannot feed easily, such as chewy meat. Merely small amounts can be eaten at a sitting, and those who have a sweet tooth may be tempted to eat only sweet things.

Before bariatric surgery, potential patients have to undergo what is known as Tier 3, which involves psychological counselling and nutritional education. It is a very permanent change in your life, said Halford.

The swallowable gastric balloon, however, might have a role at an earlier stage or for those who do not want, or are not suitable for, surgery. People are looking for alternatives, he said.

I think this is for people before they would get to the point where they need bariatric surgery. Potentially millions could benefit but these have got to get through clinical commissioning groups( CCGs) and they do not have a lot of money.

The wider use of bariatric surgery was recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence( Nice) in 2014. In the previous year, there had been 6,500 operations, but Nice said two million more people could be eligible for surgery. The procedures could save the NHS millions because they can reverse type 2 diabetes, which is very expensive to treat in the long term; Nice found that happened in 65% of cases.

Dr Roberta Ienca from the Sapienza University of Rome in Italy, who presented the study, said: Because the Elipse Balloon does not require endoscopy, surgery or anaesthesia, this is likely to make it suitable for a larger population of obese patients not responding to diet/ lifestyle treatment and also for use by a variety of clinicians nutritionists, dietitians, and internists who currently do not providing access to or are qualified to fit endoscopic or surgical weight loss devices.

Dr Simon Cork, research fellow at the department of investigative medication at Imperial College London, said it was an interesting examine and that the balloons may be useful for those who need to lose weight urgently, for instance ahead of an operation. But, he said , s adly, the weight lost through this balloon will undoubtedly be put back on soon after the balloon is removed.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

I shouldn’t be criminalised for using cannabis to ease my constant pain | James Coke

A new bill could give hope to millions of people suffering in the UK, argues the writer James Coke

For much of my adult life I’ve had to rise each morning and battle multiple sclerosis. Sometimes it’s a thankless task – my legs scissored together, locked in spasm as I fight to break free of its stranglehold.

I’m convinced cannabis has allowed me to live more of a normal life than would have been possible with the constant pain. I’ve always smoked it. But in recent years I’ve been making cannabis oil and turning it into tinctures. A few drops of my special brew numbs any niggling aches, clear my mind and help me get a good night’s sleep, spasm-free.

But smoking a joint or making cannabis tinctures could land me in jail for five years under our current drug laws. For someone living with MS or any other affliction that can be soothed by cannabis – including Parkinson’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder or cancer – the stigma of a criminal record is not ethical or fair. 

Since the “war on drugs” was launched in the early 1970s millions of people with medical problems have been getting a bum deal. Cannabis, for centuries lauded for its therapeutic benefits, was unjustly demonised, tossed in with the likes of heroin and cocaine, to be expunged from the reach of society. However, the war was lost long ago. It is estimated that the illegal global drug market is worth about $400bn a year. The figure represents the total failure of the policy and excludes the billions wasted fighting it.

Several UK police forces, including Durham, effectively decriminalised the personal use of cannabis to prioritise resources. And public opinion supports a change in the law, especially when it comes to medical cannabis. That is only likely to increase after the fight by the mother of a six-year-old boy with a rare form of epilepsy who has been refused a licence to be treated with cannabis oil.

Changes in the law in parts of the US, Canada and Germany mean that the use of medical cannabis is now legal there. The shift in policy has given people the opportunity to choose their medical path, allowing many to escape addiction to prescription opioids.

The UK government appears reluctant to follow suit. Yet since 1998 it has licensed GW Pharmaceuticals to produce Sativex. The medicine, for people with MS, is derived from cannabis plants, mostly grown by British Sugar. It is a step forward, but ultimately it has ringfenced the development and sale of medical cannabis at a massively inflated price. Only a handful of those with MS receive it: the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice), which authorises the use of drugs by the NHS deems it too expensive (a year’s supply can cost upwards of £5,000). You either have to live in parts of Wales or be able to afford a private prescription to benefit.

The formula in each 10ml Sativex bottle includes the chief components in cannabis – THC and CBD (2.5mg of each). It costs £125 a bottle and lasts on average 10 days. In comparison an ounce of medical cannabis will cost me £250 and hold upwards of 900mg of each component. Once extracted into cannabis oil and dosed accordingly, it can produce about 350 bottles of a product that does the same job, at a fraction of the cost.

Obviously by making the spray I am breaking the law – but it helps indicate the hypocrisy of the government’s stance and its inertia in facilitating real reform. The production process is certainly not rocket science, and cannabis is a common herb in many countries, and should not cost an arm and a leg. People are just being held to ransom by an outdated law.

Much rests on the second reading of Paul Flynn’s private member’s bill on Friday advocating cannabis be made legal for medical use. If it eventually passed into law, it would be a landmark day for people living with a chronic disease or in constant pain.

Big pharma and major corporations involved in the industry such as British Sugar may balk at a regulated free market in medical cannabis, seeking to protect their interests. The drugs minister, Victoria Atkins, has shown antipathy for any kind of reform to the laws on medical cannabis. (Incidentally her husband Paul Kenward, is the managing director at British Sugar.)

Flynn has got a lot of backers in his corner, though. Legalising medical cannabis might be personal to me, but it should be personal to us all. There are more than 11 million people living with a disability in the UK, and an ageing population means few will be immune from the pain that lies ahead. The benefits seen from the US and across the world offer us a template to build upon.

James Coke is a writer. He blogs at thedisabledchef.com

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