Europe beware! Ashley's Sports Direct is spoiling for a fight

Reuters UK Business News - Fri, 19/12/2014 - 14:22
LONDON (Reuters) - "If you don't want to play, we'll come to your country and smash you to bits," Mike Ashley, the billionaire founder of British retailer Sports Direct said earlier this year.

UK public finances improve in November, helped by forex fines

Reuters UK Business News - Fri, 19/12/2014 - 12:36
LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's public finances improved in November helped by fines paid by banks for a foreign exchange scandal, giving some respite to Chancellor George Osborne as he tries to show voters he can keep on bringing down the deficit.

Alstom shareholders back 12.35 billion euros sale of power arm to GE

Reuters UK Business News - Fri, 19/12/2014 - 12:10
PARIS (Reuters) - Alstom shareholders on Friday backed with 99.2 percent of votes the French engineering group's plan to sell most of its power equipment business to General Electric and refocus on its smaller rail arm.

GI diet 'debunked' claims are misleading

NHS Choices - Behind the Headlines - Fri, 19/12/2014 - 10:29

Today, the Mail Online says, “The GI diet debunked: Glycaemic index is irrelevant for most healthy people”, explaining how “it doesn't matter if you eat white or wholewheat bread”.

This is overgeneralised and misleading, so the diet certainly hasn't been "debunked".

Glycaemic index (GI) measures how quickly foods containing carbohydrates raise blood sugar levels in the bloodstream. It’s used in some diets on the basis that foods that raise blood sugar slowly (low-GI) are considered better for you.

This small US study tried mainly obese people on different high- and low-carbohydrate versions of the GI diet for five weeks at a time.

It found that low-GI diets were no better than high-GI diets at reducing certain risk factors for cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

However, the results came from mainly obese adults, a quarter of whom had high blood pressure – so may not necessarily represent “most healthy people”. The very select group involved in this research makes it difficult to generalise the findings to the wider population.

What this trial tells us is that selecting low-GI foods as a way to reduce risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease might not be any more beneficial than choosing high-GI foods.

This is food for thought for those aiming to reduce disease risk through dietary modifications, and for health professionals advising them.


Where did the story come from?

The study was carried out by researchers from Harvard Medical School and collaborators. It was funded by the (US) National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute; National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases; the Harvard Clinical and Translational Science Center; the National Center for Advancing Translational Science; and the general clinical research center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

The study was published on an open -access basis in JAMA, a peer-reviewed medical journal.

The Mail Online got its headline a bit wrong when saying that the results applied to “most healthy people”, as the study had specific eligibility criteria to include people with a BMI over 25, some of whom had high blood pressure. It was also not correct to say that GI diets have been “debunked”, as the results may not be generalisable to the wider population.


What kind of research was this?

This was a randomised crossover trial (RCT) looking at the effect of different diets on cardiovascular disease and diabetes risk factors. The dietary elements of interest were carbohydrate content and GI.

GI is a measure of how quickly foods containing carbohydrates raise blood sugar levels in the bloodstream. High-GI foods cause a short-term spike in blood sugar level, while low-GI foods cause a more prolonged and smaller rise in blood sugar.

Some popular diets advocate the consumption of low-GI foods, based on the assumption that low-GI is healthier than high-GI. However, the researchers point out that the independent benefits of GI on health are uncertain.

An RCT is one of the best methods to isolate the effects of a dietary intervention such as this. Common issues reducing the reliability of RCTs are a lack of compliance to the diet, high levels of people dropping out of the study, or only recruiting small or highly specific numbers of people. Anything less than a couple of hundred is generally considered small. In this RCT, participants were assigned to trial at least two of the different diets, with a wash-out period in between.


What did the research involve?

Researchers recruited 189 overweight people (all had a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or above) and randomly allocated them to follow one of four strictly controlled diets for five weeks.

After this first phase, they were allowed a break to eat what they wanted for two weeks – called a wash-out period. After the wash-out period, they were randomly allocated a second time to a different diet for a further five weeks. 

To be eligible, people had to have a systolic (upper figure) blood pressure of 120 and 159mmHg and diastolic (lower figure) of 70 to 99mmHg. On this basis, some of the people could have had normal blood pressure, some borderline/pre-hypertension, and some high blood pressure (hypertension).

Other eligibility criteria included being aged 30 or above, and being free from diabetes or cardiovascular disease, and not taking medication related to these conditions.

The researchers aimed to ensure that everyone included in the trial went on two different strictly controlled diets for five weeks, with a two-week gap in the middle.

The background diets from which GI was manipulated were healthy dietary patterns established in the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) and Optimal Macronutrient Intake to Prevent Heart Disease (OmniHeart). These are diets that, the authors state, are being recommended in dietary guidelines to prevent cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Participants were randomised to one of four different diets:

  • high-GI, high-carbohydrate
  • low-GI, high-carbohydrate
  • high-GI, low-carbohydrate
  • low-GI, low-carbohydrate

All food and drink was provided and controlled by the researchers. The researchers directly monitored how people stuck to each diet through food diaries and the participants making daily visits to a centre, where the researchers directly observed them eating their main meal of the day. 

The main health measurements of interest were risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular disease, including:

  • Insulin sensitivity. Taken via an oral glucose tolerance test, this shows how the body metabolises carbohydrates – specifically, how sensitive your body is to the effect of insulin. A tendency towards glucose intolerance can be a sign of higher risk of developing diabetes in the future.
  • LDL cholesterol – so-called “bad cholesterol”.
  • HDL cholesterol – so-called “good cholesterol”.
  • Blood fat levels.
  • Systolic blood pressure – the top number in a standard blood pressure measurement representing blood pressure as the heart contracts.

The analysis was restricted to people who had successfully completed the two diets, one after another, with the two-week gap in the middle.


What were the basic results?

Of the 189 randomised to start the trial, 163 completed enough of the study to be included in the final analysis. Compliance to the diets was high. The average BMI was 32 (BMI above 30 is classed as “obese”) – 92% of participants were obese or heavier. Around a quarter of people (26%) were defined as having high blood pressure. The main findings fell into three groups, summarised below.

Low-GI, high-carbohydrate diet, compared with high-GI, high-carbohydrate diet
  • insulin sensitivity worsened by 20%
  • bad cholesterol increased by 6%
  • good cholesterol, blood fat levels and systolic blood pressure were not any different between the groups
Low-GI, low-carbohydrate diet, compared with high-GI, low-carbohydrate diet
  • blood fat levels reduced by 5%
  • all other measures were not different between the groups
Low-GI, low-carbohydrate diet, compared with high-GI, high-carbohydrate diet
  • blood fat levels reduced by 23%
  • all other measures were not different between the groups

The researchers’ main conclusion was that: “In the context of an overall DASH-type diet [a diet to prevent or help people with high blood pressure], using GI to select specific foods may not improve cardiovascular risk factors or insulin resistance.”



This RCT showed that low-GI diets might not reduce risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular disease in a group of mainly obese adults. All of these adults were free from diabetes or current cardiovascular disease, although a quarter of them had high blood pressure, and some may have had borderline high blood pressure.

As such, the trial’s participants were a specific group. This means that the results may not be relevant to the general population or other subgroups – for example, those who are a healthy weight or have an existing medical condition, such as diabetes.

However, compliance to the dietary interventions was high and the statistics seemed sound, thereby increasing our confidence in the results. If the findings were replicated in other studies, or if this trial had included more participants and/or been longer in duration, we could have some confidence in saying that for this group, the GI diet did not have the expected benefits. However, for example, if any of the effects of GI took longer than five weeks to occur, this study will not have picked them up. 

The authors themselves make the points that GI is only one attribute of carbohydrate-containing foods. They said: “Further, nutrients often cluster. Hence, the effects of GI, if any, might actually result from other nutrients, such as fibre, potassium and polyphenols, which favourably affect health.”

The study achieved a high compliance to the diets, through food diaries and observation. If this was attempted in real life, compliance would be much less. This would mean that any GI effects would probably be even smaller than was found in this study.

For this group of overweight people, the evidence of the GI diet reducing certain risk factors for cardiovascular disease and diabetes is lacking. The diet certainly haven’t been “debunked” for “most healthy people”, as the Mail Online claimed.

Analysis by Bazian. Edited by NHS Choices. Follow Behind the Headlines on Twitter. Join the Healthy Evidence forum.

Links To The Headlines

The GI diet debunked: Glycaemic index is irrelevant for most healthy people - so it doesn't matter if you eat white or wholewheat bread, scientists claim. Mail Online, December 17 2014

Links To Science

Sacks FM, et al. Effects of High vs Low Glycemic Index of Dietary Carbohydrate on Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors and Insulin Sensitivity. The OmniCarb Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA. Published December 17 2014

Categories: NHS Choices

Ibuprofen unlikely to extend life

NHS Choices - Behind the Headlines - Fri, 19/12/2014 - 09:54

The Daily Mirror today reports that, “taking ibuprofen every day could extend your life by up to 12 YEARS”. The Daily Express also has a similar front page headline, while the Mail Online suggests that these extra years would be of “good quality life”.

If you read these headlines and felt sceptical, you’d be right to do so.

The news has been extrapolated to humans, based on research in yeast, microscopic worms and fruit flies. These organisms are often used in longevity research due to their naturally short lifespans – even the longest-lived among them is measured in days, not decades. 

However, if a chemical does extend lifespan in these relatively simple organisms, this is not a guarantee that it will do the same in more complex organisms, such as mammals. We also have no idea whether any extension of life would be of “good quality”.

Even in the fruit flies, the effect was more complicated than in yeast or worms. Ibuprofen increased the flies’ average lifespan, but actually reduced the maximum lifespan in male flies.

We’re definitely not at a stage where taking ibuprofen every day could be recommended as a way to extend your lifespan. While some people might think “what harm can it do?" and "it might do some good”, ibuprofen is not risk-free. As with most drugs, ibuprofen can cause side effects, including gastrointestinal bleeding.


Where did the story come from?

The study was carried out by researchers from the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, and universities in the US and Russia. It was funded by the US National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation.

The study was published in the peer-reviewed, open access journal PLOS Genetics.

The newspapers’ headlines are unwarranted over-extrapolations of this animal and laboratory research. Most later clarified that the research was in yeast, worms and flies – but read in isolation, the headlines are misleading.

This seems an irresponsible approach, given the potential harm that could result from people taking a cheap and readily-available drug unnecessarily.


What kind of research was this?

This was an animal and laboratory study looking at whether ibuprofen increases lifespan in flies, worms and yeast.

The researchers say that ibuprofen has been associated with a reduction in the risk of some age-related problems such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. However, whether it also has an effect on lifespan is unknown.

The organisms used in this study are often used in studies of lifespan, as their lives are short. This means that researchers can quickly find out if a chemical affects lifespan. If they find the same effect on lifespan in the multiple organisms tested, this suggests that the chemical is affecting a system that has been evolutionarily “conserved” across different organisms. This makes it more likely that the effect may also apply to other, untested, organisms.

However, flies, worms and yeast are relatively simple organisms, and things that affect their lifespans may not have the same impact on more complex organisms such as mammals. For example, while a chemical might double lifespan in a yeast, even if it also has an effect on lifespan in mice, it would be unlikely to have as dramatic an effect.

The researchers say that getting from chemicals that show promise in yeast and other organisms to drugs that are effective and safe in humans is a “significant hurdle”. For this reason, they wanted to look at a drug that was already used in humans, as they are already known to be safe enough for human use.


What did the research involve?

The researchers tested the effects of ibuprofen on one type of yeast, one type of microscopic worm, and fruit flies. In each case they exposed one group of yeast/worms/flies to ibuprofen and another group was not exposed (controls). They measured how long each group lived to see if it differed.

For yeast and worms, exposing them to ibuprofen involved growing them in a solution containing the drug. For yeast, the study looked at how long they were able to keep dividing to produce new yeast cells – a standard measure of their “active” lifespan. For flies, this involved feeding them with a solution that included ibuprofen. The organisms were grown in standard conditions, to make sure that the only thing that differed between them was whether or not they received ibuprofen.

The researchers then carried out a wide range of detailed experiments to determine how ibuprofen was having an effect.


What were the basic results?

The researchers found that yeast exposed to ibuprofen lived 17% longer on average than they did without it. Worms exposed to ibuprofen throughout their lives lived about 20 days, compared to about 18 days on average without ibuprofen. The researchers said that the levels of ibuprofen that extended the lifespan of worms and yeast were in the range of levels reached in people taking ibuprofen at typical doses.

In female fruit flies, ibuprofen extended the average lifespan and also the maximum lifespan. In male fruit flies, ibuprofen extended the average lifespan but, oddly, reduced the maximum lifespan. This meant that the shorter-lived flies were living longer with ibuprofen, but the longest-lived flies were not living as long.

The researchers found that ibuprofen seemed to be having its effect by reducing uptake of the amino acid tryptophan by cells.


How did the researchers interpret the results?

The researchers concluded that their results “identify a largely safe drug that extends lifespan across different kingdoms of life” and “implicate [tryptophan] import in aging”.



The current study has found that ibuprofen can extend lifespan in yeast, worms and flies.

This does not guarantee that it will extend the lives of humans – or indeed other animals more complex than flies. Even if a chemical was to have an effect on mammals, it would be unlikely to be as great an effect as in the simpler organisms that have been tested.

The results of the study themselves point to a more complicated story as organisms get more complex. While average lifespan was extended in all of the organisms, in male fruit flies (but not females) maximum lifespan was actually reduced with ibuprofen.

Doubtless these findings will lead to more research, as ways to fight the ravages of ageing are among the “holy grails” of drug development. The researchers point out in the news that there is probably already data available from observational studies in humans that could be used to assess whether ibuprofen use is associated with increased lifespan.

If you’re tempted to take a daily ibuprofen to extend your life because they’re cheap and readily available – don’t!

Ibuprofen, while safe enough for human consumption, is not risk-free. As with most drugs it can cause side effects, including gastrointestinal bleeding. While the benefits are likely to outweigh the harms for people taking the drug in the short term for its intended uses (such as pain relief), this is not the case when taking the drug on a daily basis for an unproven, and potentially non-existent, benefit.

Analysis by Bazian. Edited by NHS Choices. Follow Behind the Headlines on Twitter. Join the Healthy Evidence forum.

Links To The Headlines

Is Ibuprofen the key to a longer life? Study finds it may provide 12 extra years of good health. Mail Online, December 18 2014

Taking ibuprofen every day could extend your life by up to 12 YEARS. Daily Mirror, December 18 2014

Ibuprofen adds 12 years to life! Cheap painkillers can slow ageing and fight disease. Daily Express, December 19 2014

Could ibuprofen be key to anti-ageing? Study finds painkiller extends life of flies and worms by equivalent of 12 human years. The Independent, December 19 2014

Hangover cure may aid a longer life. The Daily Telegraph, December 19 2014

Links To Science

He C, et al. Enhanced Longevity by Ibuprofen, Conserved in Multiple Species, Occurs in Yeast through Inhibition of Tryptophan Import. PLOS Genetics. Published December 18 2014

Categories: NHS Choices

Photo gallery: Queen is happy to be home in Norfolk for Christmas

Ely Standard - Fri, 19/12/2014 - 09:18

You could tell by the smile how much she’s looking forward to Christmas, as she stepped off the train from King’s Cross – the most famous woman in the world side-by-side with ordinary passengers.

Categories: Local Press

VW CEO says will meet 2017 cost-cutting goal - source

Reuters UK Business News - Thu, 18/12/2014 - 19:01
DRESDEN, Germany (Reuters) - Volkswagen Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn has said Europe's largest carmaker is on course to meet a goal of cutting costs at its core division by 5 billion euros by 2017, as efficiency-boosting steps are taking hold, a source said.

BP faces heavy hit from former prized asset Rosneft

Reuters UK Business News - Thu, 18/12/2014 - 18:25
LONDON (Reuters) - BP faces a first and heavy loss from its stake in Russia's Rosneft due to plummeting oil prices and a crumbling rouble, potentially forcing it to write down the value of its once-prized asset.

Swiss central bank announces negative interest rates to stem flight into franc

Reuters UK Business News - Thu, 18/12/2014 - 18:17
ZURICH (Reuters) - Switzerland's central bank said it would start charging banks for deposits in francs for the first time since the 1970s, hoping to stem a flight to the safe-haven currency driven by concern over the euro zone and Russia's deepening crisis.

Roche to pay up to $489 million for next-generation antibody developer

Reuters UK Business News - Thu, 18/12/2014 - 18:14
(Reuters) - Roche has agreed to pay up to $489 million (312 million pounds) to acquire Austrian biotech company Dutalys, a specialist in the discovery and development of so-called bi-specific antibodies, the Swiss drugmaker said on Thursday.

Longstanding headteacher step down after nearly 20 years at the top

Newmarket Journal - Thu, 18/12/2014 - 18:00

As far as teaching standards go there are few that can match those attained by Fordham Primary School headteacher Kevin Bullock.

Categories: Local Press

Oil resumes slide after brief rebound on short-covering

Reuters UK Business News - Thu, 18/12/2014 - 17:56
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Global crude prices fell again on Thursday, a day after a short-covering rally, as traders placed new bets that the market would resume a six-month rout on worries about a supply glut.

Old Mutual and IAG outperform as FTSE jumps nearly two percent

Reuters UK Business News - Thu, 18/12/2014 - 17:30
LONDON (Reuters) - The FTSE 100 enjoyed one of its best days so far this year on Thursday, as the U.S. Federal Reserve's pledge for a "patient approach" to any interest rate increase lifted stock markets around the world.

Aer Lingus rejects takeover approach from British Airways owner

Reuters UK Business News - Thu, 18/12/2014 - 17:13
LONDON/DUBLIN (Reuters) - Aer Lingus has rejected a takeover approach from the owner of British Airways, which is keen to gain control of the Irish airline's slots at London's Heathrow Airport.

Hotelier IHG kicks off Chinese-focused Hualuxe roll-out

Reuters UK Business News - Thu, 18/12/2014 - 17:09
LONDON (Reuters) - InterContinental Hotels Group will open up to three of its new Hualuxe hotels in China in 2015, the first of a Chinese-specific brand it hopes to eventually roll out globally.

Top EU official says investment fund stakes won't hit deficits

Reuters UK Business News - Thu, 18/12/2014 - 17:00
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union governments can safely buy into an EU investment fund without risking punishment for raising their public debt or deficit under the bloc's fiscal rules, a top European Commission official said on Thursday.

Russian rouble slips as Putin speech fails to impress

Reuters UK Business News - Thu, 18/12/2014 - 16:55
MOSCOW (Reuters) - The rouble edged lower against the dollar on Thursday, with traders saying President Vladimir Putin had offered few concrete measures at his end-of-year news conference to pull Russia out of a crisis.

Volkswagen CEO says will certainly meet 2017 profit goal - source

Reuters UK Business News - Thu, 18/12/2014 - 16:45
DRESDEN, Germany (Reuters) - Volkswagen AG Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn said Europe's largest carmaker would definitely be able to improve its results by 5 billion euros by 2017 as planned, according to a person close to management thinking who attended a conference on Thursday where Winterkorn was speaking.

U.S. jobless claims signal firmer labour market; other data mixed

Reuters UK Business News - Thu, 18/12/2014 - 16:38
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week, suggesting the labour market continued to strengthen.

Britain says recovers further 1.36 billion pounds from Icesave collapse

Reuters UK Business News - Thu, 18/12/2014 - 16:21
LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's finance ministry said on Thursday it had recovered a further 1.36 billion pounds that it had to pay out to British depositors when Icelandic bank Landsbanki went bust in October 2008.