Category Archives: Acne

Get up, stand up: including exercise in everyday life healthier than gym, says study

Incorporating physical activity into our everyday lives, from taking the stairs to holding “walkaround” meetings in the office, is more likely to protect us from heart disease and an early death than buying a gym membership, according to the author of a major new global study.

The study, published in the Lancet medical journal, found that one in 20 cases of heart disease and one in 12 premature deaths around the globe could be prevented if people were more physically active. It compared 130,000 people in 17 countries, from affluent countries like Canada and Sweden to some of the least affluent, including Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.

While 30 minutes of exercise per day for five days a week, which most guidelines recommend, reduces heart disease and deaths, one to two hours a day is the optimal amount of physical activity, said lead author Professor Scott Lear, of Simon Fraser University’s faculty of health sciences in Vancouver, Canada.

Most people will think they cannot incorporate that much physical activity into their life, he said. “They will think ‘I’m stressed out and have to make dinner – and then do exercise for two hours!’” he said.

But the study showed that those people who have the highest activity levels are those for whom it is part of their everyday working lives. In developing countries, more people still have physically taxing jobs but as they become more economically prosperous, their activity levels fall.

“They are going from sweeping the floor to buying a vacuum,” said Lear.

He does not advocate selling the vacuum cleaner, but we could all incorporate more activity into our lives rather than relying on occasional forays to the gym or swimming pool. “It becomes routine as opposed to an endeavour,” he said. “Sitting for hours is not good for hearts or the physical body. Getting up every 20 to 30 minutes for a walk around is beneficial. I have a cooking timer.

“We spend a lot of time in meetings. If it is just two or three people, why not have a walkaround meeting?”

He also suggests playing with children in the park rather than sitting watching them, increasing the walk to work by getting off the tube or bus early and taking the stairs rather than the lift.

The authors found that the more physically active people were, the lower their risk of heart disease or an early death.

“Participating at even low physical activity confers benefit and the benefit continues to increase up to high total physical activity,” says the study. People who did more than 750 minutes of brisk walking or equivalent activity per week reduced their risk of death by 36%.

But the study notes that “the affordability of other CVD [cardiovascular disease] interventions such as consuming fruits and vegetables and generic CVD drugs is beyond the reach of many people in low-income and middle-income countries; however, physical activity represents a low-cost approach to CVD prevention.”

While the amount of physical work people do in low income countries reduces heart disease, their chances of surviving if they do have a heart attack or stroke are lower because their health services are not as advanced.

The World Health Organisation recommends that adults aged 18-64 years old do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week, as well as muscle strengthening exercises at least two days a week. But it is thought that almost a quarter (23%) of the world’s population are not meeting physical activity guidelines.

The study is the first to compare physical activity and heart disease levels in countries of varying affluence.

“The clear-cut results reinforce the message that exercise truly is the best medicine at our disposal for reducing the odds of an early death,” said Dr James Rudd, a senior lecturer in cardiovascular medicine at the University of Cambridge.If a drug company came up with a medicine as effective as exercise, they would have a billion-dollar blockbuster on their hands and a Nobel prize in the post.”

“There is a trend for more heart disease in lower income groups both within and between populations,” said John Martin, professor of cardiovascular medicine at University College London. “In the UK it has been shown that lower social class is associated with more heart disease. Walking is easy and cheap. This study should encourage governments to rebalance health budgets away from high tech treatment of heart disease to promoting simple strategies of prevention like walking.”

Professor Metin Avkiran, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation said: “In an age where we’re living increasingly busy but often sedentary lives in the west, weaving physical activity into our daily routines has never been more important, not only to improve our physical health but also overall well-being. Increased physical activity could have an even greater beneficial impact in lower income countries, due to its low its cost and the high incidence of heart disease in those countries.”

Reeling in the years: dementia-friendly screenings make cinema accessible to all

It’s a little after 1.30pm on a Wednesday and a crowd has gathered outside the Rio cinema in Dalston, east London. The first film of the day will not start for another hour, but regulars to the monthly classic matinee are eager to grab their favourite seats.

The matinee is aimed at the community’s senior citizens and all the screenings are dementia-friendly. Cinemagoers are greeted warmly by the familiar faces of the Rio’s staff, who take their orders for tea, coffee and cake – all free with the £2 ticket.

The auditorium is adapted to be as calming and comfortable as possible. Seats can be removed to make space for wheelchairs, lights are dimmed so people can move around, the volume is slightly lower, and chatting or singing along is not met by pleas for silence.

A leaflet for the classic matinees at the Rio from the 1980s.
A leaflet for the classic matinees at the Rio from the 1980s. Photograph: Rio Cinema

For some visitors, this is their one trip out in the month, says Emma Houston, duty and community manager at the Rio Dalston.

“We don’t open the doors this early for other screenings, but they like to come early to chat and meet each other,” Houston adds. With 40% of the 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK saying they feel lonely [pdf], community events such as this are crucial.

The screenings began in 1983 as the Hackney Pensioners Project, and eventually became the Classic Matinee in 1990. Aimed at older residents, the needs of those with dementia have always been at the forefront of programming.

“The idea for people with dementia, is that they recover their childhood memories through cinema, so the Hackney Pensioners Project started with classic Hollywood movies,” says Houston.

Today, with a different generation in the audience, the Rio shows movies from the 60s and 70s as well as newer comedies, dramas and family films – anything that’s uplifting and easy to watch.

The Rio has also developed links with care homes in the area and residents have been invited to watch this month’s matinee of Steel Magnolias.

“One resident we brought in today is partially-sighted so she’s been able to talk all the way through, asking questions about what’s going on,” says Vanessa Edwards, a lifestyle coordinator at Lennox House care home in Islington. “Another resident, who is usually not that quiet, has been engrossed the whole time. I think seeing Dolly Parton on the screen has taken her back to years before.”

Recalling memories is not unusual in a place like the Rio. The art deco building is more than 100 years old and the auditorium has barely changed in that time. “Last year, a woman who hadn’t been since she was a child came to one of the screenings,” says Houston. “We took her up to the circle and as soon as the lights went down, she burst into tears. She remembered coming to the Saturday morning kids’ club when she was young.”

The Rio’s screening is just one of many across the UK this month as part of World Alzheimer’s Month.

“Dementia-friendly events are growing and we know there are pockets of activity in cinemas across the UK. We wanted to bring all that together and mark the significant change in how people with dementia can experience cinema,” says Hana Lewis, strategic manager of Film Hub Wales, one of nine BFI Film Audience Network hubs providing dementia-friendly guidance, training and support to cinema operators.

Cinemagoers attend a dementia-friendly film screening at the Barry Memo arts centre in Wales.


Cinemagoers attend a dementia-friendly film screening at the Barry Memo arts centre in Wales. Photograph: Jon Pountney

Alongside dementia-friendly screenings, cinemas across the UK are hosting reminiscence therapy activities, such as memory walks, guided tours and opportunities to handle special objects such as photographs, old coins and ticket stubs.

The most fundamental way cinemas can provide a dementia-friendly space is in the way staff interact with the audience and their carers.

“Making sure cinema staff support people before they arrive is really important; reassuring them about the facilities available, such as accessible toilets, changing places and available parking,” says Emma Bould, programme partnerships project manager at Dementia Friends.

At the Rio, front of house staff are aware that one person’s journey through the cinema might be different to someone else’s. “They know not to rush people, to make sure they talk to the older person directly rather than to their carer,” says Houston. “They know not to assume that people either need help or don’t need help.”

To improve other cinemas’ offerings, the BFI Film Audience Network, the UK Cinema Association and the Alzheimer’s Society have created a dementia-friendly screenings guide.

“Any cinema can pick it up and get guidance on reaching isolated people with dementia,” says Bould. The guide, launching next month, will also be part of the Film Audience Network’s upcoming online portal, aiming to build a wider, more diverse UK cinema audience. It will pull together toolkits from cinemas across the UK on ways to include anyone who might feel marginalised, unrepresented or unable to access cinema.

The Rio hopes to open up the cinema to more people in the area, and is fundraising to create a second, 30-seat screen to host additional community events. “We could organise more regular or specialised screenings – perhaps something directly with the Alzheimer’s Society for smaller groups of people,” says Houston. “There’s lots more we can do.”

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Working to prevent avoidable sight loss | Letters

The 250 people who will start to lose their sight today (Specsavers/RNIB figures) may never know that half of all sight loss is avoidable. National Eye Health Week (18-24 September) aims to address this by promoting regular eye tests for everyone, including those with good vision.

Recent research by the British Ophthalmological Surveillance Unit found that patients are suffering permanent and severe visual loss due to health service delays. Accordingly, until 29 September, an all-party parliamentary group on eye health and visual impairment has asked for evidence from interested parties including patients and families about how best to address the issue of overstretched NHS eye clinics.

The most common cause of blindness in the UK is age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which isolates and handicaps many thousands of sufferers. Yet I, and many others, have had very successful treatment for dry AMD, contrary to recent media reports discrediting the Hubble or EyeMax implants, currently being submitted to Nice for approval. If adopted, this would be the first NHS operation capable of helping all stages of AMD through a fast, painless procedure similar to a normal cataract operation.
Elizabeth Lenton (retired GP)
Plymouth

Join the debate – email guardian.letters@theguardian.com

Read more Guardian letters – click here to visit gu.com/letters

Working to prevent avoidable sight loss | Letters

The 250 people who will start to lose their sight today (Specsavers/RNIB figures) may never know that half of all sight loss is avoidable. National Eye Health Week (18-24 September) aims to address this by promoting regular eye tests for everyone, including those with good vision.

Recent research by the British Ophthalmological Surveillance Unit found that patients are suffering permanent and severe visual loss due to health service delays. Accordingly, until 29 September, an all-party parliamentary group on eye health and visual impairment has asked for evidence from interested parties including patients and families about how best to address the issue of overstretched NHS eye clinics.

The most common cause of blindness in the UK is age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which isolates and handicaps many thousands of sufferers. Yet I, and many others, have had very successful treatment for dry AMD, contrary to recent media reports discrediting the Hubble or EyeMax implants, currently being submitted to Nice for approval. If adopted, this would be the first NHS operation capable of helping all stages of AMD through a fast, painless procedure similar to a normal cataract operation.
Elizabeth Lenton (retired GP)
Plymouth

Join the debate – email guardian.letters@theguardian.com

Read more Guardian letters – click here to visit gu.com/letters

Working to prevent avoidable sight loss | Letters

The 250 people who will start to lose their sight today (Specsavers/RNIB figures) may never know that half of all sight loss is avoidable. National Eye Health Week (18-24 September) aims to address this by promoting regular eye tests for everyone, including those with good vision.

Recent research by the British Ophthalmological Surveillance Unit found that patients are suffering permanent and severe visual loss due to health service delays. Accordingly, until 29 September, an all-party parliamentary group on eye health and visual impairment has asked for evidence from interested parties including patients and families about how best to address the issue of overstretched NHS eye clinics.

The most common cause of blindness in the UK is age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which isolates and handicaps many thousands of sufferers. Yet I, and many others, have had very successful treatment for dry AMD, contrary to recent media reports discrediting the Hubble or EyeMax implants, currently being submitted to Nice for approval. If adopted, this would be the first NHS operation capable of helping all stages of AMD through a fast, painless procedure similar to a normal cataract operation.
Elizabeth Lenton (retired GP)
Plymouth

Join the debate – email guardian.letters@theguardian.com

Read more Guardian letters – click here to visit gu.com/letters

Businesses on the couch: the co-founders in couples’ therapy

There are plenty of good reasons to set up a business with a co-founder rather than go it alone. A co-founder is another committed financial partner and someone who is likely to bring a vitally different skillset and will be a source of support when the going gets tough. Research by the Kauffman Foundation in the US suggests that co-founder teams can attract 30% more investment and can increase their customer base more quickly, improving business survival rates.

But there is still a lot to consider before taking on a co-founder. Startup life is stressful and sometimes is it’s all too easy to take it out on the only other person in the same boat as you: your business partner.

Therapy helped us remember why we went into business together

After becoming friends while on the same master’s degree course in their twenties, Ed Gillespie and Solitaire Townsend had a solid foundation in place to launch their sustainability and communications consultancy Futerra in 2001.

Co-founders of Futerra, Ed Gillespie and Solitaire Townsend


Co-founders of Futerra, Ed Gillespie and Solitaire Townsend. Photograph: Futerra

However, they’ve always had their differences; in fact, their business is based on combining their two competing visions about how to make organisations more sustainable.

“I enjoy working with Ed because he makes me think,” says Townsend. “It started with us having arguments on our master’s [course] about how to change the world, and those discussions are the heart and soul of Futerra,” says Townsend. “But over time, concerns over working hours, salaries, practical stuff, all got in the way and overshadowed our initial reasons for working together.”

The pair started to argue more in 2010 when they were battling through the recession. “As co-founders you’re always looking out for the team and the business first – we have had times when we both didn’t take a salary. So, you turn on each other,” Gillespie explains.

They decided to try a therapist who specialises in professional relationships. Their first big discovery was that they were speaking too much on the part of the other person. “We both kept saying ‘We must do this’, instead of ‘I want to do this’, says Gillespie. “One of us was always co-opting the other person.”

They give the example of differences over work-life balance. “If your business partner says ‘We must work harder’ when you want to improve your work-life balance you feel disgruntled, but if they are free to tell you what they want to do on their own terms, you’re likely to feel more helpful,” Townsend explains.

Their toughest exercise was a listening technique. “You have to listen silently to the other person, without nodding or interrupting, and then repeat back what they said without altering it. It’s great being the person who gets to speak but it’s hard to be the listener, especially if you have to hear a criticism,” Townsend says.

It was worth it though, they agreed. “The subtext of disagreement started to disappear and we found at board level that different views could be shared without it feeling hostile,” said Gillespie.

Best of all they managed to keep their business partnership and friendship intact while developing their roles in the business. “We don’t have to be carbon copies of each other to have an equal voice – we have very different jobs to each other now, and we remembered why we chose to do this in the first place,” Townsend said.

We no longer argue over small things like the price of a printer

Jon Chintanaroad and Mike Prestano first met working for the same staffing agency where they were both top performers. They soon decided to try and set up on their own and ended up living and working together while launching Aspire Recruiting, a tech recruiting firm, four years ago.

Aspire co-founders Jon Chintanaroad and Mike Prestano


Aspire co-founders Jon Chintanaroad and Mike Prestano. Photograph: Aspire Recruiting

“The business initially went very well and we secured clients, but in the second year, it took more of a downturn and there was less revenue coming in,” Chintanaroad says. “Things started to become more tense – we were spending a lot of time together, and we have different personalities so we reacted differently. Our differences mean we complement each other, but it can make communication difficult.”

Prestano says: “I’m a lot more conservative and Jon’s more adventurous. I wouldn’t want to spend too much, whereas he would be more relaxed about spending now and paying back later.”

They decided to see Sunny Sabbini, a Silicon Valley-based family therapist. Sabbini helped them understand that the other person wasn’t putting a different view forward intentionally – they were just different.

The pair developed a numbering system to assess the level of importance each decision had for them both, one for “I couldn’t care less” and 10 for “very important, we should have a discussion”.

Prestano said this helped them see why the other person seemed relaxed about one decision, but stressed about another. “It helped us sort through decisions that we didn’t need to waste energy discussing, and therefore put us in a more productive mindset,” he says.

Prestano added that he also stopped worrying about any expenditure under $ 100 (£77), to curb unnecessary arguments, such as when he said no to the purchase of an $ 80 printer. “It’s all about having a ‘SOP’ – standard operating procedure – for as many things as possible so you can handle everything more easily.”

Alternatives to the therapist’s couch

If your budget doesn’t stretch to regular therapy sessions, Dr Patrick Meade, a New York-based therapist who runs a practice dedicated to counselling for business partners, recommends finding any external adviser such as a friend or former colleague to act as a sounding board.

He also recommends being prepared, in case things don’t got to plan. “One of the most common problems is optimism bias, in which co-founders believe that everything will go well. They make little preparation for when things go wrong,” he says.

“Another tool that can help is to take time to get the other perspective, to put yourself in your partner’s situation and write down the thoughts and feelings that go through his or her mind when he or she thinks about you and your joint business,” he adds.

Both the Futerra and Aspire Recruiting co-founders agree that keeping their friendship and shared purpose in mind has been crucial.

“Mike and I trust each other, we’ve been brought up in a similar way, we have the same core values,” says Chintanaroad. “For example, if one of us needs to take a day off for family reasons, we are both fine with it, I think that’s important.” Prestano says that remembering the reason they left their jobs in the first place is sometimes all it takes to keep going. “Looking back and remembering how much better it is to be running your own business can really help,” he said.

“Go out for a meal, get drunk and chat – you need to get out of the office if you can’t do anything else,” says Gillespie. For both the Futerra founders, it was their enduring friendship that they realised was at stake – and that wasn’t worth losing.

Townsend says: “I went to visit Ed’s new baby last week at his home, and I thought about how, while the company is so important, over the years of arguing I might not have ended up sitting there. If you start off as friends, you need to not forget that’s what you were first.”

HPV screening better at detecting cervical cancer than pap smear, trial shows

Australia’s new national cervical cancer screening program has received a boost, with a large clinical trial showing screening for the human papillomavirus is significantly better at detecting potential precancerous cells than the traditional pap smear.

“We found that the HPV test was substantially more effective at picking up high-grade abnormalities compared to the pap test,” said Prof Karen Canfell, director of research at Cancer Council New South Wales.

The results, published in the international journal PLOS Medicine, have been released less than three months before the transition to the new national cervical cancer screening program that eliminates the need for women to have a pap smear every two years.

From 1 December, women from the age of 25, instead of 18, will be required to have a five-yearly HPV test, replacing the two-yearly pap test.

Previous estimates have suggested the new screening program would lower cervical cancer incidence and mortality by at least 20% owing to the more accurate test. But until now it had not been tested among women with a high uptake of the HPV vaccine.

To examine its effectives, researchers at Cancer Council NSW and the Victorian Cytology Service compared the detection rates of high-grade cervical abnormalities with the pap test among 5,000 women aged 25 to 64. The women attended a routine screening at 47 participating clinics in Victoria.

They were randomly assigned to either have a five-yearly HPV screening test or a 2.5-yearly liquid-based cytology screening (pap test).

The study found that compared with the Pap test, HPV screening “significantly” increased detection of high-grade precancerous cervical lesions among those who had been vaccinated. The overall detection rate was 0.1% versus 2.7%, respectively.

“These findings provide initial support for the implementation of primary HPV screening in vaccinated populations,” the authors wrote.

Canfell says increased detection means greater longer-term protection against the development of invasive cancer.

“This adds to existing evidence about how much more accurate and effective HPV screening is,” she said. “We now have a superior method for detecting not just the virus that causes cervical cancer, but also high-grade abnormalities.”

The second phase of the Compass trial is recruiting and hopes to have more than 120,000 participants.

Poor diet is a factor in one in five deaths, global disease study reveals

Poor diet is a factor in one in five deaths around the world, according to the most comprehensive study ever carried out on the subject.

Millions of people are eating the wrong sorts of food for good health. Eating a diet that is low in whole grains, fruit, nuts and seeds and fish oils and high in salt raises the risk of an early death, according to the huge and ongoing study Global Burden of Disease.

The study, based at the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, compiles data from every country in the world and makes informed estimates where there are gaps. Five papers on life expectancy and the causes and risk factors of death and ill health have been published by the Lancet medical journal.

It finds that people are living longer. Life expectancy in 2016 worldwide was 75.3 years for women and 69.8 for men. Japan has the highest life expectancy at 84 years and the Central African Republic has the lowest at just over 50. In the UK, life expectancy for a man born in 2016 is 79, and for a woman 82.9.

Diet is the second highest risk factor for early death after smoking. Other high risks are high blood glucose which can lead to diabetes, high blood pressure, high body mass index (BMI) which is a measure of obesity, and high total cholesterol. All of these can be related to eating the wrong foods, although there are also other causes.

causes of death graphic

“This is really large,” Dr Christopher Murray, IHME’s director, told the Guardian. “It is amongst the really big problems in the world. It is a cluster that is getting worse.” While obesity gets attention, he was not sure policymakers were as focused on the area of diet and health as they needed to be. “That constellation is a really, really big challenge for health and health systems,” he said.

The problem is often seen as the spread of western diets, taking over from traditional foods in the developing world. But it is not that simple, says Murray. “Take fruit. It has lots of health benefits but only very wealthy people eat a lot of fruit, with some exceptions.”

Sugary drinks are harmful to health but eating a lot of red meat, the study finds, is not as big a risk to health as failing to eat whole grains. “We need to look really carefully at what are the healthy compounds in diets that provide protection,” he said.

undernourishment graphic

Prof John Newton, director of health improvement at Public Health England, said the studies show how quickly diet and obesity-related disease is spreading around the world. “I don’t think people realise how quickly the focus is shifting towards non-communicable disease [such as cancer, heart disease and stroke] and diseases that come with development, in particular related to poor diet. The numbers are quite shocking in my view,” he said.

The UK tracks childhood obesity through the school measurement programme and has brought in measures to try to tackle it. “But no country in the world has been able to solve the problem and it is a concern that we really need to think about tackling globally,” he said.

Today, 72% of deaths are from non-communicable diseases for which obesity and diet are among the risk factors, with ischaemic heart disease as the leading cause worldwide of early deaths, including in the UK. Lung cancer, stroke, lung disease (chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder) and Alzheimer’s are the other main causes in the UK.

The success story is children under five. In 2016, for the first time in modern history, fewer than 5 million children under five died in one year – a significant fall compared with 1990, when 11 million died. Increased education for women, less poverty, having fewer children, vaccinations, anti-malaria bed-nets, improved water and sanitation are among the changes in low-income countries that have brought the death rate down, thanks to development aid.

People are living longer but spending more years in ill health. Obesity is one of the major reasons. More than a billion people worldwide are living with mental health and substance misuse disorders. Depression features in the top 10 causes of ill health in all but four countries.

“Our findings indicate people are living longer and, over the past decade, we identified substantial progress in driving down death rates from some of the world’s most pernicious diseases and conditions, such as under age-five mortality and malaria,” said Murray “Yet, despite this progress, we are facing a triad of trouble holding back many nations and communities – obesity, conflict, and mental illness, including substance use disorders.”

In the UK, the concern is particularly about the increase in ill-health that prevents people from working or having a fulfilling life, said Newton. A man in the UK born in 2016 can expect only 69 years in good health and a woman 71 years.

“This is yet another reminder that while we’re living longer, much of that extra time is spent in ill-health. It underlines the importance of preventing the conditions that keep people out of work and put their long term health in jeopardy, like musculoskeletal problems, poor hearing and mental ill health. Our priority is to help people, including during the crucial early years of life and in middle age, to give them the best chance of a long and healthy later life,” he said.

Poor diet is a factor in one in five deaths, global disease study reveals

Poor diet is a factor in one in five deaths around the world, according to the most comprehensive study ever carried out on the subject.

Millions of people are eating the wrong sorts of food for good health. Eating a diet that is low in whole grains, fruit, nuts and seeds and fish oils and high in salt raises the risk of an early death, according to the huge and ongoing study Global Burden of Disease.

The study, based at the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, compiles data from every country in the world and makes informed estimates where there are gaps. Five papers on life expectancy and the causes and risk factors of death and ill health have been published by the Lancet medical journal.

It finds that people are living longer. Life expectancy in 2016 worldwide was 75.3 years for women and 69.8 for men. Japan has the highest life expectancy at 84 years and the Central African Republic has the lowest at just over 50. In the UK, life expectancy for a man born in 2016 is 79, and for a woman 82.9.

Diet is the second highest risk factor for early death after smoking. Other high risks are high blood glucose which can lead to diabetes, high blood pressure, high body mass index (BMI) which is a measure of obesity, and high total cholesterol. All of these can be related to eating the wrong foods, although there are also other causes.

causes of death graphic

“This is really large,” Dr Christopher Murray, IHME’s director, told the Guardian. “It is amongst the really big problems in the world. It is a cluster that is getting worse.” While obesity gets attention, he was not sure policymakers were as focused on the area of diet and health as they needed to be. “That constellation is a really, really big challenge for health and health systems,” he said.

The problem is often seen as the spread of western diets, taking over from traditional foods in the developing world. But it is not that simple, says Murray. “Take fruit. It has lots of health benefits but only very wealthy people eat a lot of fruit, with some exceptions.”

Sugary drinks are harmful to health but eating a lot of red meat, the study finds, is not as big a risk to health as failing to eat whole grains. “We need to look really carefully at what are the healthy compounds in diets that provide protection,” he said.

undernourishment graphic

Prof John Newton, director of health improvement at Public Health England, said the studies show how quickly diet and obesity-related disease is spreading around the world. “I don’t think people realise how quickly the focus is shifting towards non-communicable disease [such as cancer, heart disease and stroke] and diseases that come with development, in particular related to poor diet. The numbers are quite shocking in my view,” he said.

The UK tracks childhood obesity through the school measurement programme and has brought in measures to try to tackle it. “But no country in the world has been able to solve the problem and it is a concern that we really need to think about tackling globally,” he said.

Today, 72% of deaths are from non-communicable diseases for which obesity and diet are among the risk factors, with ischaemic heart disease as the leading cause worldwide of early deaths, including in the UK. Lung cancer, stroke, lung disease (chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder) and Alzheimer’s are the other main causes in the UK.

The success story is children under five. In 2016, for the first time in modern history, fewer than 5 million children under five died in one year – a significant fall compared with 1990, when 11 million died. Increased education for women, less poverty, having fewer children, vaccinations, anti-malaria bed-nets, improved water and sanitation are among the changes in low-income countries that have brought the death rate down, thanks to development aid.

People are living longer but spending more years in ill health. Obesity is one of the major reasons. More than a billion people worldwide are living with mental health and substance misuse disorders. Depression features in the top 10 causes of ill health in all but four countries.

“Our findings indicate people are living longer and, over the past decade, we identified substantial progress in driving down death rates from some of the world’s most pernicious diseases and conditions, such as under age-five mortality and malaria,” said Murray “Yet, despite this progress, we are facing a triad of trouble holding back many nations and communities – obesity, conflict, and mental illness, including substance use disorders.”

In the UK, the concern is particularly about the increase in ill-health that prevents people from working or having a fulfilling life, said Newton. A man in the UK born in 2016 can expect only 69 years in good health and a woman 71 years.

“This is yet another reminder that while we’re living longer, much of that extra time is spent in ill-health. It underlines the importance of preventing the conditions that keep people out of work and put their long term health in jeopardy, like musculoskeletal problems, poor hearing and mental ill health. Our priority is to help people, including during the crucial early years of life and in middle age, to give them the best chance of a long and healthy later life,” he said.

Poor diet is a factor in one in five deaths, global disease study reveals

Poor diet is a factor in one in five deaths around the world, according to the most comprehensive study ever carried out on the subject.

Millions of people are eating the wrong sorts of food for good health. Eating a diet that is low in whole grains, fruit, nuts and seeds and fish oils and high in salt raises the risk of an early death, according to the huge and ongoing study Global Burden of Disease.

The study, based at the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, compiles data from every country in the world and makes informed estimates where there are gaps. Five papers on life expectancy and the causes and risk factors of death and ill health have been published by the Lancet medical journal.

It finds that people are living longer. Life expectancy in 2016 worldwide was 75.3 years for women and 69.8 for men. Japan has the highest life expectancy at 84 years and the Central African Republic has the lowest at just over 50. In the UK, life expectancy for a man born in 2016 is 79, and for a woman 82.9.

Diet is the second highest risk factor for early death after smoking. Other high risks are high blood glucose which can lead to diabetes, high blood pressure, high body mass index (BMI) which is a measure of obesity, and high total cholesterol. All of these can be related to eating the wrong foods, although there are also other causes.

causes of death graphic

“This is really large,” Dr Christopher Murray, IHME’s director, told the Guardian. “It is amongst the really big problems in the world. It is a cluster that is getting worse.” While obesity gets attention, he was not sure policymakers were as focused on the area of diet and health as they needed to be. “That constellation is a really, really big challenge for health and health systems,” he said.

The problem is often seen as the spread of western diets, taking over from traditional foods in the developing world. But it is not that simple, says Murray. “Take fruit. It has lots of health benefits but only very wealthy people eat a lot of fruit, with some exceptions.”

Sugary drinks are harmful to health but eating a lot of red meat, the study finds, is not as big a risk to health as failing to eat whole grains. “We need to look really carefully at what are the healthy compounds in diets that provide protection,” he said.

undernourishment graphic

Prof John Newton, director of health improvement at Public Health England, said the studies show how quickly diet and obesity-related disease is spreading around the world. “I don’t think people realise how quickly the focus is shifting towards non-communicable disease [such as cancer, heart disease and stroke] and diseases that come with development, in particular related to poor diet. The numbers are quite shocking in my view,” he said.

The UK tracks childhood obesity through the school measurement programme and has brought in measures to try to tackle it. “But no country in the world has been able to solve the problem and it is a concern that we really need to think about tackling globally,” he said.

Today, 72% of deaths are from non-communicable diseases for which obesity and diet are among the risk factors, with ischaemic heart disease as the leading cause worldwide of early deaths, including in the UK. Lung cancer, stroke, lung disease (chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder) and Alzheimer’s are the other main causes in the UK.

The success story is children under five. In 2016, for the first time in modern history, fewer than 5 million children under five died in one year – a significant fall compared with 1990, when 11 million died. Increased education for women, less poverty, having fewer children, vaccinations, anti-malaria bed-nets, improved water and sanitation are among the changes in low-income countries that have brought the death rate down, thanks to development aid.

People are living longer but spending more years in ill health. Obesity is one of the major reasons. More than a billion people worldwide are living with mental health and substance misuse disorders. Depression features in the top 10 causes of ill health in all but four countries.

“Our findings indicate people are living longer and, over the past decade, we identified substantial progress in driving down death rates from some of the world’s most pernicious diseases and conditions, such as under age-five mortality and malaria,” said Murray “Yet, despite this progress, we are facing a triad of trouble holding back many nations and communities – obesity, conflict, and mental illness, including substance use disorders.”

In the UK, the concern is particularly about the increase in ill-health that prevents people from working or having a fulfilling life, said Newton. A man in the UK born in 2016 can expect only 69 years in good health and a woman 71 years.

“This is yet another reminder that while we’re living longer, much of that extra time is spent in ill-health. It underlines the importance of preventing the conditions that keep people out of work and put their long term health in jeopardy, like musculoskeletal problems, poor hearing and mental ill health. Our priority is to help people, including during the crucial early years of life and in middle age, to give them the best chance of a long and healthy later life,” he said.