Our Strength Lies in Our Humanity

Myth about how science progresses is built on a misreading of the story of penicillin

Myth about how science progresses is built on a misreading of the story of penicillin Rattiya Thongdumhyu/Shutterstock Many professions have creation myths about much-revered pioneers. For nursing, it is Florence Nightingale in Scutari, flitting between beds bearing her lamp. For engineers, it is Isambard Kingdom Brunel, driving railway lines across the countryside and building ships. These myths often tell us more about how professions want to be seen than about…

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Parents’ drug, alcohol and tobacco use negatively impacts all areas of child well-being – new study

Parents’ drug, alcohol and tobacco use negatively impacts all areas of child well-being – new study Africa Studio/Shutterstock We all know that the use of tobacco, alcohol and drugs harms our own health. But many people are not aware that their use of these substances can sometimes also affect the health and well-being of others – including their own children. Take secondhand smoking for example. Its effect on child well-being…

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Older people with alcohol dependence problems desperately need better support

Older people with alcohol dependence problems desperately need better support Axel Bueckert/ Shutterstock Tom held a responsible position at a charity. Friends described him as a kind and caring man. But following the death of his father, he turned to alcohol and lost his job and a close relationship. Living alone, his social circle became dominated by others with alcohol problems. After years of abuse and exploitation, at age 61,…

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Are emulsifiers bad? Not enough evidence to say we should stop eating them

Are emulsifiers bad? Not enough evidence to say we should stop eating them sasha2109/Shutterstock Food additives do a lot of good: they prolong shelf life, improve taste and texture, and add colour to otherwise unappealing products. They are also highly controversial and garner a lot of media attention. But are additives really bad for your health, or are headlines like “E-numbers in ice cream ‘could increase YOUR risk of bowel…

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Six ways the world has empowered and enabled breastfeeding

Six ways the world has empowered and enabled breastfeeding mrvirgin/Shutterstock In an ideal world, the value of breastfeeding would go uncontested, and mothers would be supported to do it in all places and spaces. But unfortunately this is not the case. Even in the UK, a country which is so progressive in other health areas, breastfeeding mothers do not receive the support they need to naturally feed their babies and cuts to support services are still being made. Elsewhere in the world, things are very different, however. As this year’s World Breastfeeding Week focuses on empowering and enabling breastfeeding, here are some of the ways that countries have invested in public health, changed the culture of their society and increased breastfeeding rates. 1. Sweden’s maternity leave policies Want more women…

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I sent my DNA to Norway for personalised nutrition advice, what I discovered made me rethink my diet completely

I sent my DNA to Norway for personalised nutrition advice, what I discovered made me rethink my diet completely shutterstock Personalised nutrition, where your DNA tells you what to eat and what not to eat, is gaining momentum. And for those with money to spare, a number of companies now offer fully personalised nutritional advice aimed at improving your overall health. Having researched this area for a number of years, I thought it was time to put my money (literally) where my mouth is and find out for myself what it feels like to receive personalised nutrition advice based on my genetics. So I sent off a saliva sample to a company in Norway that came highly recommended by a dietitian friend. The results came back and I was shocked…

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GM humans are possible, but do we really want them?

GM humans are possible, but do we really want them? Panuwach/Shutterstock We are entering a new era as a species. For the first time, we are not only able to read our genetic code but also edit it. This will revolutionise our ability to treat disease and it will improve the lives of millions if not billions of people. But it means that, if we want to, we can now edit human embryos to “improve” the characteristics of our children. We will be able to create designer babies and these changes will be passed on to their descendants, which will change the human species forever. It is worth thinking about the scale of what we can now do. The human genome is made up of 3 billion characters, which is…

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Type 2 diabetes: small reduction in alcohol, big reduction in heart disease risk

Type 2 diabetes: small reduction in alcohol, big reduction in heart disease risk Mateone/Shutterstock People with type 2 diabetes are at a higher risk of getting cardiovascular diseases, including heart attack and stroke. Lifestyle factors, such as diet and physical activity, affect the risk of developing diabetes, but there has been little research about how people with diabetes can change their lifestyle to lower their long-term risk of cardiovascular disease. Our research set out to fill in this gap in the evidence. Our latest research, published in Cardiovascular Diabetology, looked at healthy lifestyle changes among people with a new diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. The results show that people who cut their alcohol consumption by at least two units a week or abstained from alcohol had a lower risk of…

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We found reservoirs of antibiotic resistant bacteria across London

We found reservoirs of antibiotic resistant bacteria across London Larry Platner/Shutterstock The human body houses a wide range of bacteria, both inside and out. One is Staphylococcus epidermidis – a happy resident of our skin that does no harm. But if transferred inside the body on an implanted artificial hip, that once friendly skin bacteria can cause a major infection. Other species in the same family of bacteria can cause mild to life-threatening infections. These are opportunistic pathogens – they can take advantage of a weakened immune system and cause serious harm. We recovered a total of 600 bacteria from this family around East and West London. They represented 11 different species and were collected from surfaces that people often touch, including ATMs, lift buttons, escalator rails and door handles…

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Drug laws on possession: several countries are revisiting them and these are their options

Drug laws on possession: several countries are revisiting them and these are their options Not worth locking people up for. Bobkov Evgeniy/Shutterstock Many countries are changing the way they approach people who use drugs. The Irish government has just announced possible alternatives to criminalisation for possession of some drugs. Other countries, including Norway and Malaysia, are weighing options. But what can countries do if they don’t want to arrest or convict people because they use drugs? To inform the Irish government’s decision, we carried out a detailed review of approaches in various countries. These countries were Australia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Jamaica, the Netherlands, Portugal, the UK and the US. We found three main approaches: depenalisation, diversion and decriminalisation. (We did not review models of legally regulating the production…

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