Newsroom

Bank of England keeps rates on hold

Reuters UK Business News - Thu, 05/03/2015 - 13:10
LONDON (Reuters) - The Bank of England marked the sixth anniversary of the introduction of its lowest ever interest rate by standing pat once again on Thursday, but an improving economy suggests rates are likely to rise at some point over the next 12 months.






No proof 'alcohol will make you more gorgeous'

NHS Choices - Behind the Headlines - Thu, 05/03/2015 - 12:30

"How having just the one drink can make you look more gorgeous, according to science," The Independent reports. But the "science" turns out to be an experiment carried out under highly artificial conditions.

The headline comes from a small study looking at whether drinking alcohol makes people more physically attractive to others. It found photographs of those who had consumed a "low-dose" alcoholic drink (a large glass of wine) were rated as more attractive than images of sober individuals.

But photographs of people who went on to have a second drink were not rated as more attractive than those who drank nothing, and the apparent effect of alcohol on perceived attractiveness was only slight. 

The point of this small study is unclear, although the authors say they are interested in the relationship between alcohol and risky sexual behaviour.

If the researchers do go on to find a relationship between alcohol and risky sexual behaviour, the results would hardly be surprising.

It may well be true that a small amount of alcohol can help someone relax and therefore appear more approachable, but whether we needed a taxpayer-funded study to tell us this is debatable.

 

Where did the story come from?

The study was carried out by researchers from the University of Bristol and Macquarie University, Australia.

It was funded by a European Research Advisory Board grant. The Medical Research Council paid for the article to be published on an open-access basis.

It was published in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism, and is free to access online. It should be noted that this journal does not have a peer review process.

Both The Independent and the Mail Online's headlines failed to make clear the highly artificial nature of this study: it didn't involve people speed dating in a wine bar, just students looking at photos.

Both news outlets deserve some praise, however, for making it clear that the alleged effects of alcohol on attractiveness were limited to only one drink.

But the Mail's claim that the study found "wine and other alcohol can dilate pupils, bring on rosy cheeks and relax facial muscles to make a person appear more approachable" is misleading.

This was the speculation of the authors of the study, but the study itself did not look at what mechanisms might increase facial attractiveness after consuming alcohol.

 

What kind of research was this?

This study set out to examine whether alcohol consumption leads to the consumer being rated as more attractive than sober individuals.

The authors point out that alcohol consumption can cause mild flushing and also result in facial changes that may indicate changes of mood, sexual arousal or expectancy of sex, making people more attractive.

Alcohol consumption is known to be associated with sexual behaviour, particularly risky sexual behaviour, and they say it is important to understand the mechanism through which alcohol might influence such behaviours.

While previous studies have looked at whether drinking alcohol leads the consumer to rate others as more attractive, the effects on the attractiveness of the consumer have not been explored.

 

What did the research involve?

Researchers recruited 40 people aged between 18 and 30, half of them women. The participants were all heterosexual students who typically consumed between 10 and 50 units of alcohol a week (males) and between five and 35 units a week (females). They were all required to be in good physical health and to not be using illicit drugs (except cannabis).

They were asked to look at photographs of around 36 students. These students were all in a heterosexual relationship, and each partner participated in the study because the researchers say there are "strong correlations observed between the attractiveness of romantic partners".

Each volunteer had been photographed three times:

  • when sober – they had not had an alcoholic drink
  • after the consumption of 0.4 g/kg of alcohol – equivalent to a large glass of wine (250 ml) at 14% alcohol by volume for a 70kg individual 
  • after the consumption of a further 0.4 g/kg of alcohol (a total dose of 0.8 g/kg of alcohol)

All photos were taken with applicants in the same position, from the same angle and distance, and with a neutral expression.

When sober, participants were asked to complete an attractiveness rating task where they were presented with pairs of colour photographs of the same person displayed on a monitor, comprising either:

  • facial images of them sober and after one alcoholic drink, or
  • facial images of them sober and after two alcoholic drinks

Participants were then asked to decide which image was more attractive and to what extent, using the number keys 1 to 8 on the computer.

Values 1 to 4 indicated that the face on the left was preferred (1 = strongly prefer, 2 = prefer, 3 = slightly prefer, 4 = guess), while 5 to 8 indicated the face on the right was preferred (5 = guess, 6 = slightly prefer, 7 = prefer, 8 = strongly prefer).

They had previously completed a validated questionnaire rating their mood.

 

What were the basic results?

Researchers found images of individuals who had consumed one alcoholic drink (a "low dose") were rated as more attractive than images of them sober.

The preference for an "intoxicated" face (of someone who had had one drink) over the "sober" face was slight (mean preference 54%, 95% confidence interval [CI] 50-59%).

However, when comparing someone who had not had a drink with someone who had had two drinks (the "high dose"), there was a slight tendency to prefer the "sober" face over the "intoxicated" face (mean preference 47%, 95% CI 43-51%).

They also found that in those who had one alcoholic drink, the skin tone in facial images was slightly redder and darker compared to the sober state, but no different when comparing sober with high-dose or low and high doses. 

 

How did the researchers interpret the results?

The researchers say their study suggests alcohol consumption increases the attractiveness of the consumer to others, and they may therefore receive "greater sexual interest" from potential mates.

The mechanism for this apparent increase in attractiveness is unknown, although they suggest it is driven by a change in appearance after low alcohol consumption – a flushing of the skin and a relaxation of facial muscles. 

"Understanding the mechanisms through which alcohol influences social behaviour, including factors that may impact on the likelihood of engaging in risky sexual behaviour, is important if we are to develop evidence-based public health messages," they argue.

 

Conclusion

This small study found a slight increase in the perceived attractiveness of people who had consumed (on average) one large glass of wine, compared with images of those who had consumed no alcohol. But what this finding adds to our knowledge of alcohol and risky sexual behaviour is unclear.

All kinds of factors might influence whether someone is considered attractive, including the mood and preferences of the onlooker, as well as the mood of those being photographed.

Also, the sample was drawn from a student population and the results might not be generalisable to other groups. It is also highly likely that the student participants recognised the students in the photographs, which could have influenced the results.

The official NHS guidelines on alcohol consumption are:

  • men should not regularly drink more than 3-4 units of alcohol a day
  • women should not regularly drink more than 2-3 units a day
  • to avoid alcohol for 48 hours after a heavy drinking session

Three units is the equivalent of a large glass of wine (alcohol content 12%) or a pint of higher strength beer, lager or cider. Read more about alcohol units.

Regularly drinking above these limits can lead to alcohol misuse problems. Alcohol misuse can trigger a range of health issues, such as weight gain, impotence (in men), jaundice, and various types of cancers.

Read more advice about how to enjoy alcohol responsibly.

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

Links To The Headlines

How having just the one drink can make you look more gorgeous, according to science. The Independent, March 4 2015

How drinking ONE glass of wine improves your looks: Booze can make you beautiful - but stay away from that second glass. Mail Online, March 3 2015

Links To Science

Van Den Abbeele J, Penton-Voak IS, Attwood AS, et al. Increased Facial Attractiveness Following Moderate, but not High, Alcohol Consumption. Alcohol and Alcoholism. Published online February 25 2015

Categories: NHS Choices

Bank of Beirut's UK arm fined for misleading watchdog

Reuters UK Business News - Thu, 05/03/2015 - 12:20
LONDON (Reuters) - The British subsidiary of Bank of Beirut has been fined 2.1 million pounds and barred from signing up new customers from some jurisdictions for 126 days after misleading the banking watchdog over its financial crime controls.






FCA warns banks over complex retail products

Reuters UK Business News - Thu, 05/03/2015 - 12:20
LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's financial watchdog has told banks they are failing to meet standards on selling complex investment products and may have to compensate some customers, signalling that enforcement action could be on the cards.

Town’s racing heritage centre is well into its stride

Newmarket Journal - Thu, 05/03/2015 - 12:00

Work on Newmarket’s National Heritage Centre for Horseracing and Sporting Art is on track for an official opening early next year.

Categories: Local Press

Virgin Money more than doubles profit as mortgages rise

Reuters UK Business News - Thu, 05/03/2015 - 11:47
(Reuters) - Virgin Money Holdings (UK) Plc , an emerging challenger to Britain's big four banks, said its full-year profit more than doubled as margins improved and it sold more mortgages.






People with gout have lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease

NHS Choices - Behind the Headlines - Thu, 05/03/2015 - 11:00

"Gout could help prevent Alzheimer's, research shows," The Independent reports. Researchers think that uric acid, which causes gout, may have a protective effect against Alzheimer's disease.

Uric acid is a waste product that is normally passed out of the body. In cases of gout, the acid builds up around one or more joints, forming tiny crystals. This can then trigger the symptoms of gout, which are typically a sudden severe pain and swelling around the affected joint(s).

Previous research has found that uric acid is also an antioxidant (which helps to protect against cell damage), so researchers wanted to see if uric acid protected against Alzheimer’s.

The researchers used information from a UK database of more than 3.7 million patients. They matched people aged over 40 who developed gout with controls who did not, and followed them, on average, for five years to see how many were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. They took multiple factors into account when analysing the results, such as medication use and age.

They found that 309 out of the 59,224 people with gout (0.5%) developed Alzheimer’s disease, compared to 1,942 out of 238,805 people without gout (0.8%), which translates into a 24% reduction in risk.

The study does not prove that gout is protective against Alzheimer’s, as there could be unmeasured factors that affected the results.

 

Where did the story come from?

The study was carried out by researchers from Boston University School of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Harvard School of Public Health, and the University of British Columbia. It was funded by these institutes and the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.

The study was published in the peer-reviewed medical journal Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.

In general, the media reported the story accurately, though did not discuss the limitations of this type of study – that it can look for associations, but not prove cause and effect. The Independent helpfully provided expert opinion from Dr Laura Phipps from Alzheimer’s Research UK, who is reported to have said: "while this work does suggest a positive impact of gout on brain health, many of the risk factors related to gout, including obesity and diabetes, are also linked to increased dementia risk. Current evidence suggests that the best ways to maintain a healthy brain are to keep a healthy weight, exercise regularly, not smoke, eat a balanced diet, drink in moderation, and keep blood pressure and cholesterol in check."

 

What kind of research was this?

This was a case-controlled cohort study, which aimed to see if people with gout were less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

Gout is a type of arthritis that most commonly affects the big toe, causing swelling and inflammation. It is due to a build-up of uric acid crystals in the blood. Uric acid is a breakdown product of purines, which are in all cells in the body and consumed in the diet, especially in beer, seafood, oily fish and liver.

However, uric acid is also an antioxidant and has previously been thought to protect against some neurodegenerative conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease and dementia. The researchers wanted to specifically see if higher levels of uric acid were associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

This is an appropriate style of study to assess any link between higher levels of uric acid (people with gout) and risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Deliberately giving people an intervention to increase uric acid levels would be unethical, as this could lead to painful symptoms and joint damage.

 

What did the research involve?

The researchers compared the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease in people with and without a new diagnosis of gout during the study period.

The researchers used data from the Health Improvement Network database, which holds medical records from 580 GP practices in the UK. All the data is anonymised, so no personal data was provided to researchers.

The study period started in 1995 and the data for more than 3.7 million people aged 40 or more with no history of gout or dementia were eligible to be included in the study. When someone then had a diagnosis of gout, they entered the study. Five people of the same age and body mass index (BMI) who did not have gout entered the study at the same time, to act as controls. The researchers then followed these people up to 2013, comparing the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease between the two groups.

They took the following potential confounding factors into account when analysing the results:

  • age and sex
  • history of ischaemic heart disease, stroke, hypertension, hyperlipidaemia and diabetes
  • BMI
  • smoking status
  • alcohol consumption
  • social deprivation
  • use of cardiovascular medication
  • use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

They repeated the process for people who developed osteoarthritis as a control, to see if the process was robust, as there has been no previous link between these diseases. 

 

What were the basic results?

There was a 24% reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s for people with gout compared to those without, after adjusting for the potential confounders listed above (hazard ratio (HR) 0.76, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.62 to 0.87).

Alzheimer’s disease occurred in:

  • 309 out of the 59,224 people with gout (0.5%)
  • 1,942 of the 238,805 people without gout (0.8%)

The average age was 65 in both groups and 71% were male. They were followed up for an average of five years.

There was no association between osteoarthritis and Alzheimer’s disease.

 

How did the researchers interpret the results?

The researchers concluded that their "findings provide the first population-based evidence for the potential protective effect of gout on the risk of AD [Alzheimer’s disease] and support the purported neuroprotective role of uric acid." They say that "if confirmed by future studies, a therapeutic investigation that has been employed to prevent progression of PD [Parkinson’s disease] may be warranted".

 

Conclusion

This population-based study has found that people with gout had a 24% reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. It was a well-designed study, in that there were large numbers of people in each group and multiple potential confounding factors were taken into account. The validation of the study was also valuable in showing the expected lack of a link between osteoarthritis and Alzheimer’s disease.

However, there are some limitations with this type of study, with a major one being that it cannot prove cause and effect. While some potential confounding factors were accounted for in the statistical analysis, there could be others which influenced the results.

The study participants were followed for an average of five years, so there will be a number of cases of early Alzheimer’s disease that would not have been picked up or fully diagnosed.

Gout was used as a proxy for increased levels of uric acid. However, gout is an inflammatory type of arthritis and some people only have one attack, or attacks that are spread out over a number of years. Therefore, it is not clear that a high level of uric acid caused the results seen.

It is not advisable that you try to increase your levels of uric acid through your diet, as this could increase your risk of developing gout, which is a very painful condition. The best way to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia are all the usual suspects: stop smoking, drink alcohol within recommended limits, be physically active, eat a balanced diet, reduce weight if you are overweight or obese, and keep blood pressure and cholesterol down.

Read more about reducing your dementia risk

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

Links To The Headlines

Gout could help prevent Alzheimer's, research shows. The Independent, March 4 2015

Gout sufferers 'have less chance of developing Alzheimer's': Sufferers risk of developing condition is reduced by quarter. Mail Online, March 5 2015

Gout sufferers are a quarter less likely to develop Alzheimer's. Daily Mirror, March 4 2015

Links To Science

Lu N, Dubreuil M, Zhang Y, et al. Gout and the risk of Alzheimer's disease: a population-based, BMI-matched cohort study. Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases. Published online March 4 2015

Categories: NHS Choices

Forecast-beating results take Schroders' shares to record high

Reuters UK Business News - Thu, 05/03/2015 - 10:55
LONDON (Reuters) - British fund manager Schroders Plc reported a better than expected jump in profits on Thursday, as net inflows more than tripled and assets under management (AUM) rose to a record level, sending its share price to a fresh life-time high.






Firm announces plans which could revamp Ely’s Market Place

Ely Standard - Thu, 05/03/2015 - 08:57

Developers have promised to transform an eyesore building which overlooks Ely’s historic market square into an area residents “can be proud of” as part of a sweeping redevelopment.

Categories: Local Press

Award-winning firm to launch new service aimed at vets

Ely Standard - Thu, 05/03/2015 - 08:56

Award-winning Ely business PA Answer has launched a new service it hopes will help “wrestle back control” of veterinary surgery waiting rooms.

Categories: Local Press

MP looks to future as new figures show steep drop in unemployment

Ely Standard - Thu, 05/03/2015 - 08:42

MP Steve Barclay has hailed new figures which show the number of people claiming Job Seekers Allowance in his NE Cambridgeshire constituency has fallen by almost two thirds.

Categories: Local Press

Man stole ladies underwear in raid on house in Soham

Ely Standard - Thu, 05/03/2015 - 08:37

A 19-year-old man is to be sentenced after stealing four pairs of ladies underwear from a house in Soham.

Categories: Local Press

McDonald's USA to phase out human antibiotics from chicken supply

Reuters UK Business News - Thu, 05/03/2015 - 02:35
LOS ANGELES/CHICAGO (Reuters) - McDonald's Corp's U.S. restaurants will gradually stop buying chicken raised with antibiotics vital to fighting human infections, the most aggressive step by a major food company to change chicken producers' practices in the fight against dangerous 'superbugs.'






China aims for around 7 percent economic growth in 2015-Premier Li

Reuters UK Business News - Thu, 05/03/2015 - 00:35
BEIJING (Reuters) - China aims to grow its economy by around 7 percent in 2015 and to keep consumer inflation at around 3 percent, Premier Li Keqiang said in remarks prepared for delivery at today's opening of the annual meeting of parliament, the National People's Congress.






Asia stocks slip, euro languishes at 11-year low before ECB

Reuters UK Business News - Thu, 05/03/2015 - 00:31
TOKYO (Reuters) - Asian stocks slipped on Thursday after Wall Street continued to pull back from record highs ahead of Friday's closely-watched U.S. jobs data, while the nervous euro languished at an 11-year low prior to the European Central Bank's policy meeting.






McDonald's USA to phase out human antibiotics from chicken supply

Reuters UK Business News - Wed, 04/03/2015 - 23:19
LOS ANGELES/CHICAGO (Reuters) - McDonald's Corp's U.S. restaurants will gradually stop buying chicken raised with antibiotics vital to fighting human infections, the most aggressive step by a major food company to change chicken producers' practices in the fight against dangerous 'superbugs.'






Apple to delay larger iPad production till September - report

Reuters UK Business News - Wed, 04/03/2015 - 22:43
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Apple Inc will delay the start of production on a larger, 12.9-inch iPad until around September because of problems involving the display panel supply, said a report by Bloomberg News citing people familiar with the company's plans as saying.






Bank of England says fraud office investigating liquidity auctions

Reuters UK Business News - Wed, 04/03/2015 - 22:00
LONDON (Reuters) - British fraud investigators are looking into possible fraud related to liquidity auctions held by the Bank of England during the financial crisis in 2007 and 2008.






FTSE stages late rebound as traffic growth boosts IAG

Reuters UK Business News - Wed, 04/03/2015 - 21:39
LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's top share index rebounded late on Wednesday, helped by a surge in airline IAG due to strong traffic figures and by rallies in broadcaster ITV and bank Standard Chartered .






Reflationist BOJ newcomer no pushover for more Japanese easing

Reuters UK Business News - Wed, 04/03/2015 - 21:08
TOKYO (Reuters) - Markets believe the Bank of Japan's reflationary credentials will be burnished by new board member Yutaka Harada this month, but a closer look at his views suggests he is unlikely to back an early expansion in the bank's massive monetary stimulus.






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