Category Archives: Alergies

Surgeons lacked caution in use of vaginal mesh implants, doctor admits

The corporate giant Johnson & Johnson says it acted “ethically and responsibly” in developing and selling its controversial transvaginal mesh implants, which have left hundreds of Australian women with chronic and debilitating pain.

A Senate inquiry is currently examining the impact of transvaginal mesh products, which are used to treat urinary incontinence and pelvic prolapse, common complications of childbirth.

The devices have caused life-altering complications in many cases, leaving women in severe pain and unable to have sexual intercourse.

The inquiry heard from two women whose lives have been destroyed by post-surgery complications – Gai Thompson, who had her surgery in 2008, and Joanne Maninon, who had the device implanted in 2012.

Both struggled with tears as they spoke of the impact the devices have had on their lives.

Maninon said she was told the mesh would make her feel like a “16-year-old virgin” and that she would be back at the gym in 10 days.

“To this day, I can’t sit upright on a chair for longer than 15 minutes at a time due to the searing, burning pain that travels across my lower abdomen and into my pelvis,” she said.


I describe my pain as being cut open and set alight

Joanne Maninon

Maninon was completely bedridden for 14 weeks due to the agonising pain. She wasn’t able to leave the house for months. To get to the doctor, Maninon lay down on a mattress in the back of a station wagon.

“I describe my pain as being cut open and set alight,” Maninon said. “A deep burning, searing ache that intensifies with movement.”

Later on Monday, the inquiry heard from Gavin Fox-Smith, the managing director of Johnson & Johnson Medical Australia and New Zealand.

Fox-Smith offered an apology to “patients who have not experienced a successful outcome from their treatment”.

But he said he believed the current Australian class action against the company would vindicate its actions.

“We believe the evidence will show we have acted ethically and responsibly in the research, development, and supply of the products that are the subject of the proceedings,” Fox-Smith said.

Asked whether the victims’ stories had affected him personally, Fox-Smith replied:

“Thats a pretty personal question senator, so I’ll give you a personal answer,” Fox-Smith said.

“It’s really, really hard to even conceptualise the challenge that the patients are facing. And for me, honestly I’ve had the privilege of working in this industry for 30 years. Our job is to make patients better, so for me it’s really tough, it’s nowhere near as tough as what the patients have to deal with,” he said.

Earlier, Urogynaecological Society of Australasia director, Jenny King, told the inquiry there had been a lack of caution around the use of the devices. Surgeons, she said, thought they were “magic”.

But King labelled any attempt to ban the controversial devices as “hysterical”, saying they had positive outcomes for women who were unable to undergo other major surgery. She instead said doctors should be more careful in their use, avoiding operations on younger and healthy women.

“The impacts that these have had on these women – we have seriously let them down,” King said.

“But what phases me about this is the suggestion that the solution is to ban vaginal mesh products so that other people don’t suffer,” she said.

“I don’t want to defend all of my colleagues, but we’re not really callous. We don’t like it when we can’t fix everyone, we’re really bad at that.”

Estimates vary on the number of women who have experienced problems with the implant. King said about 5% of cases caused problems. Other estimates suggest a higher rate of 10-15%.

The use of the mesh had dropped by 90% in recent years, since concerns became public.

King said the controversy had made her “timid” in her use of the devices. She regretted not using the mesh in some circumstances, because it required women to eventually undergo multiple surgeries.

The cases, seen across the western world, have prompted significant criticism of manufacturer, pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson. The company is currently being sued in a class action in Australia.

The Australian trial has heard the company embarked on an aggressive marketing campaign to sell the products to surgeons, promising they were easy to insert, inexpensive and therefore lucrative. Advertisements associated the products with Lamborghinis and trips to the Swiss Alps.

The risks of the devices were downplayed and controlled trials were either nonexistent or insufficient, the court has heard.

The court also heard the company tried to stop French health authorities publishing a report warning against the use of its untested pelvic mesh devices, two years after they began giving them to Australian women.

Senator Derryn Hinch, who has campaigned against the mesh devices, asked King if Australian surgeons were offered incentives to use the devices.

“No love, truly I’ve never seen anything like that,” she responded. “Nobody’s ever given me one. I would hate to think that had happened, and I don’t know of it, truly.”

The inquiry is considering several courses of action on the mesh. One is to ban the device outright. Another is to introduce a mandatory reporting regime, which forces doctors to report adverse impacts on patients. The inquiry heard there was significant under reporting of adverse consequences on women.

A third is a credentialing system, which would ensure surgeons were appropriately qualified to conduct such surgeries.

It is also considering a recommendation to build a tracking database to monitor the use of different mesh products on patients.

This week it was revealed that Johnson & Johnson pulled two controversial pelvic mesh devices from the Australian market.

The decision came after Australia’s Department of Health required further evidence of the devices’ safety.

Surgeons lacked caution in use of vaginal mesh implants, doctor admits

The corporate giant Johnson & Johnson says it acted “ethically and responsibly” in developing and selling its controversial transvaginal mesh implants, which have left hundreds of Australian women with chronic and debilitating pain.

A Senate inquiry is currently examining the impact of transvaginal mesh products, which are used to treat urinary incontinence and pelvic prolapse, common complications of childbirth.

The devices have caused life-altering complications in many cases, leaving women in severe pain and unable to have sexual intercourse.

The inquiry heard from two women whose lives have been destroyed by post-surgery complications – Gai Thompson, who had her surgery in 2008, and Joanne Maninon, who had the device implanted in 2012.

Both struggled with tears as they spoke of the impact the devices have had on their lives.

Maninon said she was told the mesh would make her feel like a “16-year-old virgin” and that she would be back at the gym in 10 days.

“To this day, I can’t sit upright on a chair for longer than 15 minutes at a time due to the searing, burning pain that travels across my lower abdomen and into my pelvis,” she said.


I describe my pain as being cut open and set alight

Joanne Maninon

Maninon was completely bedridden for 14 weeks due to the agonising pain. She wasn’t able to leave the house for months. To get to the doctor, Maninon lay down on a mattress in the back of a station wagon.

“I describe my pain as being cut open and set alight,” Maninon said. “A deep burning, searing ache that intensifies with movement.”

Later on Monday, the inquiry heard from Gavin Fox-Smith, the managing director of Johnson & Johnson Medical Australia and New Zealand.

Fox-Smith offered an apology to “patients who have not experienced a successful outcome from their treatment”.

But he said he believed the current Australian class action against the company would vindicate its actions.

“We believe the evidence will show we have acted ethically and responsibly in the research, development, and supply of the products that are the subject of the proceedings,” Fox-Smith said.

Asked whether the victims’ stories had affected him personally, Fox-Smith replied:

“Thats a pretty personal question senator, so I’ll give you a personal answer,” Fox-Smith said.

“It’s really, really hard to even conceptualise the challenge that the patients are facing. And for me, honestly I’ve had the privilege of working in this industry for 30 years. Our job is to make patients better, so for me it’s really tough, it’s nowhere near as tough as what the patients have to deal with,” he said.

Earlier, Urogynaecological Society of Australasia director, Jenny King, told the inquiry there had been a lack of caution around the use of the devices. Surgeons, she said, thought they were “magic”.

But King labelled any attempt to ban the controversial devices as “hysterical”, saying they had positive outcomes for women who were unable to undergo other major surgery. She instead said doctors should be more careful in their use, avoiding operations on younger and healthy women.

“The impacts that these have had on these women – we have seriously let them down,” King said.

“But what phases me about this is the suggestion that the solution is to ban vaginal mesh products so that other people don’t suffer,” she said.

“I don’t want to defend all of my colleagues, but we’re not really callous. We don’t like it when we can’t fix everyone, we’re really bad at that.”

Estimates vary on the number of women who have experienced problems with the implant. King said about 5% of cases caused problems. Other estimates suggest a higher rate of 10-15%.

The use of the mesh had dropped by 90% in recent years, since concerns became public.

King said the controversy had made her “timid” in her use of the devices. She regretted not using the mesh in some circumstances, because it required women to eventually undergo multiple surgeries.

The cases, seen across the western world, have prompted significant criticism of manufacturer, pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson. The company is currently being sued in a class action in Australia.

The Australian trial has heard the company embarked on an aggressive marketing campaign to sell the products to surgeons, promising they were easy to insert, inexpensive and therefore lucrative. Advertisements associated the products with Lamborghinis and trips to the Swiss Alps.

The risks of the devices were downplayed and controlled trials were either nonexistent or insufficient, the court has heard.

The court also heard the company tried to stop French health authorities publishing a report warning against the use of its untested pelvic mesh devices, two years after they began giving them to Australian women.

Senator Derryn Hinch, who has campaigned against the mesh devices, asked King if Australian surgeons were offered incentives to use the devices.

“No love, truly I’ve never seen anything like that,” she responded. “Nobody’s ever given me one. I would hate to think that had happened, and I don’t know of it, truly.”

The inquiry is considering several courses of action on the mesh. One is to ban the device outright. Another is to introduce a mandatory reporting regime, which forces doctors to report adverse impacts on patients. The inquiry heard there was significant under reporting of adverse consequences on women.

A third is a credentialing system, which would ensure surgeons were appropriately qualified to conduct such surgeries.

It is also considering a recommendation to build a tracking database to monitor the use of different mesh products on patients.

This week it was revealed that Johnson & Johnson pulled two controversial pelvic mesh devices from the Australian market.

The decision came after Australia’s Department of Health required further evidence of the devices’ safety.

Surgeons lacked caution in use of vaginal mesh implants, doctor admits

The corporate giant Johnson & Johnson says it acted “ethically and responsibly” in developing and selling its controversial transvaginal mesh implants, which have left hundreds of Australian women with chronic and debilitating pain.

A Senate inquiry is currently examining the impact of transvaginal mesh products, which are used to treat urinary incontinence and pelvic prolapse, common complications of childbirth.

The devices have caused life-altering complications in many cases, leaving women in severe pain and unable to have sexual intercourse.

The inquiry heard from two women whose lives have been destroyed by post-surgery complications – Gai Thompson, who had her surgery in 2008, and Joanne Maninon, who had the device implanted in 2012.

Both struggled with tears as they spoke of the impact the devices have had on their lives.

Maninon said she was told the mesh would make her feel like a “16-year-old virgin” and that she would be back at the gym in 10 days.

“To this day, I can’t sit upright on a chair for longer than 15 minutes at a time due to the searing, burning pain that travels across my lower abdomen and into my pelvis,” she said.


I describe my pain as being cut open and set alight

Joanne Maninon

Maninon was completely bedridden for 14 weeks due to the agonising pain. She wasn’t able to leave the house for months. To get to the doctor, Maninon lay down on a mattress in the back of a station wagon.

“I describe my pain as being cut open and set alight,” Maninon said. “A deep burning, searing ache that intensifies with movement.”

Later on Monday, the inquiry heard from Gavin Fox-Smith, the managing director of Johnson & Johnson Medical Australia and New Zealand.

Fox-Smith offered an apology to “patients who have not experienced a successful outcome from their treatment”.

But he said he believed the current Australian class action against the company would vindicate its actions.

“We believe the evidence will show we have acted ethically and responsibly in the research, development, and supply of the products that are the subject of the proceedings,” Fox-Smith said.

Asked whether the victims’ stories had affected him personally, Fox-Smith replied:

“Thats a pretty personal question senator, so I’ll give you a personal answer,” Fox-Smith said.

“It’s really, really hard to even conceptualise the challenge that the patients are facing. And for me, honestly I’ve had the privilege of working in this industry for 30 years. Our job is to make patients better, so for me it’s really tough, it’s nowhere near as tough as what the patients have to deal with,” he said.

Earlier, Urogynaecological Society of Australasia director, Jenny King, told the inquiry there had been a lack of caution around the use of the devices. Surgeons, she said, thought they were “magic”.

But King labelled any attempt to ban the controversial devices as “hysterical”, saying they had positive outcomes for women who were unable to undergo other major surgery. She instead said doctors should be more careful in their use, avoiding operations on younger and healthy women.

“The impacts that these have had on these women – we have seriously let them down,” King said.

“But what phases me about this is the suggestion that the solution is to ban vaginal mesh products so that other people don’t suffer,” she said.

“I don’t want to defend all of my colleagues, but we’re not really callous. We don’t like it when we can’t fix everyone, we’re really bad at that.”

Estimates vary on the number of women who have experienced problems with the implant. King said about 5% of cases caused problems. Other estimates suggest a higher rate of 10-15%.

The use of the mesh had dropped by 90% in recent years, since concerns became public.

King said the controversy had made her “timid” in her use of the devices. She regretted not using the mesh in some circumstances, because it required women to eventually undergo multiple surgeries.

The cases, seen across the western world, have prompted significant criticism of manufacturer, pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson. The company is currently being sued in a class action in Australia.

The Australian trial has heard the company embarked on an aggressive marketing campaign to sell the products to surgeons, promising they were easy to insert, inexpensive and therefore lucrative. Advertisements associated the products with Lamborghinis and trips to the Swiss Alps.

The risks of the devices were downplayed and controlled trials were either nonexistent or insufficient, the court has heard.

The court also heard the company tried to stop French health authorities publishing a report warning against the use of its untested pelvic mesh devices, two years after they began giving them to Australian women.

Senator Derryn Hinch, who has campaigned against the mesh devices, asked King if Australian surgeons were offered incentives to use the devices.

“No love, truly I’ve never seen anything like that,” she responded. “Nobody’s ever given me one. I would hate to think that had happened, and I don’t know of it, truly.”

The inquiry is considering several courses of action on the mesh. One is to ban the device outright. Another is to introduce a mandatory reporting regime, which forces doctors to report adverse impacts on patients. The inquiry heard there was significant under reporting of adverse consequences on women.

A third is a credentialing system, which would ensure surgeons were appropriately qualified to conduct such surgeries.

It is also considering a recommendation to build a tracking database to monitor the use of different mesh products on patients.

This week it was revealed that Johnson & Johnson pulled two controversial pelvic mesh devices from the Australian market.

The decision came after Australia’s Department of Health required further evidence of the devices’ safety.

Maurice Little obituary

My father, Maurice Little, who has died aged 75, was a dedicated and skilled paediatrician, a committed volunteer for a number of charities and a loving father and husband.

He was born near Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, during the second world war, to Emily (nee Ross) and John Little, who were dairy farmers. After attending Portora Royal school in Enniskillen Maurice read medicine at Queen’s University, Belfast, graduating in 1965 and then leaving Northern Ireland to work in Liverpool at the Alder Hey hospital.

There he met Lorna Marchesi, a medical student. They married in 1970 and moved to Canada, where Maurice took up a fellowship in paediatric neurology at Kingston General hospital in Ontario. They loved their time in Canada, which included a secondment to an Inuit settlement on Hudson Bay; Maurice was always interested in meeting people from different cultures and was keen to learn how other people thought and lived.

My parents returned to Cardiff in 1973, where Maurice took up a senior registrar post at the University Hospital of Wales before moving to Kent in 1976. There he worked at All Saints hospital in Chatham as a consultant paediatrician. He mentored many people, to whom his advice was often simple, including the mantra: “Always listen to the mother.” Many families owed him a debt of gratitude for his tireless commitment to child health.

As well as numerous teaching and advisory roles and work with the Royal College of Paediatrics, Maurice worked for various charities, including Cancer and Leukaemia in Children, with whom he created a home care service for children with life-threatening illnesses. He also travelled to Romania and Palestine to teach and offer advice on clinical services.

After his retirement he was a member of the independent monitoring board of Rochester prison, in Kent, for more than a decade. He was a keen linguist and attended Irish and Spanish classes for many years.

He and Lorna loved to travel and had friends around the globe. In later years he was a devoted grandfather, never more in his element than when calming a crying baby in his expert hands. We called him “the baby whisperer”.

He is survived by Lorna, his three children, James, Katherine and me, and two grandsons, Billy and Fergus.

How to describe what it’s like to be in a hurricane | Daniel Glaser

Recent reports of the terrifying weather events in the Caribbean and US have exposed us to instances of humans trying to describe a hurricane wind (many would argue that getting mainstream US media to cover the causes rather than the effects of extreme weather would be a great advantage).

The Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale describes the effects on structures and people, but not what it would feel like. Hearing is the sense most frequently invoked, with winds sounding like a train or a low howl.

Clearly wind detection is not one of the five classical senses. It is only recently that the anatomy of wind detection in the fruit fly has been discovered. Wind generates vibrations which are generally processed like touch, but it seems that for insects at least, it’s the hearing circuits that are best placed to decode these signals.

Of course, the most basic response to these events is fear and awe. Our brain generates the fear and that triggers the gut, which feeds back to the brain. The sensation is really part of an indirect loop. If the hurricane struck your body directly that would be a very different story.

Dr Daniel Glaser is director of Science Gallery at King’s College London

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.

Moving every half hour could help limit effects of sedentary lifestyle, says study

Moving your body at least every half an hour could help to limit the harmful effects of desk jobs and other sedentary lifestyles, research has revealed.

The study found that both greater overall time spent inactive in a day, and longer periods of inactivity were linked to an increased risk of death.

“If you sit at work all day, if you sit at home a lot, then you should be really mindful of trying to take a break from your sitting habits as often as possible – at least every 30 minutes,” said Keith Diaz, co-author of the study from Columbia University Medical Center. “Even if you exercise, you still should be mindful of taking breaks and be moving throughout the day, because exercise is not enough to overcome the risks of sitting, and sitting in long bouts.”

Writing in the journal the Annals of Internal Medicine, Diaz and colleagues from seven US institutions describe how they kitted out nearly 8,000 individuals aged 45 or over from across the US with activity trackers between 2009 and 2013.

Each participant wore the fitness tracker for at least four days during a period of one week, with deaths of participants tracked until September 2015.

The results reveal that, on average, participants were inactive for 12.3 hours of a 16 hour waking day, with each period of inactivity lasting an average of 11.4 minutes.

After taking into account a host of factors including age, sex, education, smoking and high blood pressure, the team found that both the overall length of daily inactivity and the length of each bout of sedentary behaviour were linked to changes in the risk of death from any cause. The associations held even among participants undertaking moderate to vigorous physical activity.

Those who were inactive for 13.2 hours a day had a risk of death 2.6 times that of those spending less than 11.5 hours a day inactive, while those whose bouts of inactivity lasted on average 12.4 minutes or more had a risk of death almost twice that of those who were inactive for an average of less than 7.7 minutes at a time.

The team then looked at the interaction between the two measures of inactivity, finding the risk of death was greater for those who had both high overall levels of inactivity (12.5 hours a day or more) and long average bouts of sedentary behaviour (10 minutes or more), than for those who had high levels of just one of the measures.

“We were trying to understand what is the worst feature of a person’s sitting habits – is it how many hours a day you sit, or is it sitting in these long bouts,” said Diaz. “Unfortunately the message is more mixed … it looks like both are bad for you.”

Further analysis looking at how participants split up their stints of inactivity found that those who kept most of their bouts to under 30 minutes at a time had the lowest risk of death while the team also discovered that the longer, more frequent and more intense the breaks from inactivity the better.

While the study was funded by the US National Institutes of Health and Coca-Cola, neither were involved in the research.

The latest study is not the first to probe the health impacts of prolonged periods of inactivity, but the team say their use of activity trackers is a step up as it does not rely on self-reporting, which is less accurate.

But, they note, the study does not show that inactivity causes death, and the tracker could not tell whether individuals were sitting or just standing still.

What’s more, factors such as smoking status and blood pressure were only captured once, and the activity trackers were only worn over one week, meaning that changes in the health or behaviour of participants over time was not taken into account.

Nevertheless, the team say the study underscores the need for individuals to take breaks from inactivity. “The longer the better, the more intense the better,” said Diaz.

Dr Mike Loosemore from the Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health, who was not involved in the research, said sedentary behaviour was contributing to increasing levels of obesity, adding that being more active did not require huge efforts.

“You can do simple things like stand up to answer the phone, maybe instead of getting a full glass of water from the kitchen get half a glass and then go twice as often,” he said. “Just simple things that every half hour give you an excuse to stand up and move around a bit.”

Britain needs more accessible housing | Letters

Demand for accessible homes is growing, yet just 7% of the nation’s housing provides even basic accessibility features. This worrying accessible housing deficit is likely to reach a crisis point as the number of people with disability increases and more of us are living longer. Together we are calling for more action from government, local authorities and developers to ensure new homes are inclusively designed with effective planning for the current and future housing needs of disabled people. Greater understanding and recognition of the long-term financial and social value that inclusive housing can bring is crucial.

Accessible and easily adaptable housing can help cut the length of hospital stays, improve independent living and reduce adaptation costs. Inclusive homes benefit everyone, from older people, to people with mobility problems as well as families with young children. It’s time for housing policy to create an inclusive legacy.
Andrew Gibson Vice-chair, Habinteg
Terrie Alafat Chief executive, Chartered Institute for Housing
Caroline Abrahams Charity director, Age UK
Kate Henderson Chief executive, Town and Country Planning Association
Anna Dixon Chief executive, Centre for Ageing Better
Sue Adams Chief executive, Care and Repair England
David Sinclair Director, International Longevity Centre
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Mike Duggan General secretary, Civil Service Pensioners’ Alliance
Steve Edwards Chief executive, National Association of Retired Police Officers

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The brain game: what and where we remember | Daniel Glaser

As we return to school and work from blissful relaxation, one of our anxieties is how we’ll get the information we once knew back into our heads. An elegant experiment from the 1970s might give us some reassurance, particularly if we’ve just been on the beach.

Alan Baddeley worked with divers to see what the effect of context was on recall. The divers were given two lists of words to remember, one set on dry land and one set underwater. They were then tested on both sets in each environment. The results clearly showed they were better at recalling things when in the context where they learned them. The words had no relation to water or land so the effect had nothing to do with the content.

The way we encode and retrieve is all about linking details together, so what is learned in, say, the classroom or the office, is easier to retrieve in those places than on a beach.

Part of the joy and benefit of holiday is the creativity that arises when the weight of our daily routine is lifted. But don’t worry, when you bump into John from accounts, the full detail of all your budget spreadsheets will come flooding back.

Dr Daniel Glaser is director of Science Gallery at King’s College London