Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Epidemiology - the "science " of deceit.

Today a link on Twitter pointed to a study that claimed to show that "Eating breakfast was associated with significantly lower CHD risk in this cohort of male health professionals".

So I took a quick look at the study and weeded out some of the raw data. It's an analysis of 27,000 ageing male healthcare professionals of whom about 3,400 said they skipped breakfast. This subgroup were generally a bit younger (5 year difference in average age) and three times more of them were smokers - 15% vs 5%.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Doubly Labelled Water - Gold Standard ?

Doubly Labelled Water (DLW) is said to be the "gold standard" of energy measurements but in the world of nutritional research that probably means it's just the least worst option. Most of the materials I've read propose it as a good measure of energy expenditure and it is then combined with body weight and composition changes to determine what the energy intake "must have been" using the calorie hypothesis.

DLW is in the news today as the UK Government's "Nudge Unit" - now operating independently as Behavioural Insights - has been looking at alleged under-reporting of calorie intake in official statistics.

One aspect of accuracy is how repeatable a measure is - if you take the same person and repeat a DLW test in the same circumstances do you get the same answer ? This has been done :-

Sunday, 7 August 2016

UK Retailer files low carb health claim

UK retailer Marks & Spencer has filed a claim with the European regulator EFSA for their "Balanced for You" range of ready meals with a limited ratio of carbohydrate to protein.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

UK to tax production of sugary soft drinks

In the 2016 Budget statement the UK Chancellor (Finance Minister) announced that a levy will be charged on manufacture of sugar sweetened soft drinks. Fruit juice and milk products will be excluded. It is expected to raise £520m (US$730m, €660m) in the first year 2018-19 (UK tax years start on 6th April) declining annually thereafter (£500m, £445m....)

Budget 2016 announces a new soft drinks industry levy targeted at producers and importers of soft drinks that contain added sugar. The levy will be designed to encourage companies to reformulate by reducing the amount of added sugar in the drinks they sell, moving consumers towards lower sugar alternatives, and reducing portion sizes.
Under this levy, if producers change their behaviour, they will pay less tax. The levy is expected to raise £520 million in the first year. The OBR expect that this number will fall over time as the total consumption of soft drinks in scope of the levy drops, in part as a result of producers changing their behaviour and helping consumers to make healthier choices.
According to the British Soft Drinks Association some 45% of carbonated drinks are "regular" rather than "mid" or "no/low" calorie at 6 and 49% respectively.   With a 2014 volume of 6380 million litres of total carbonates that makes 2870 m litres of regular sugar sweetened beverage so the proposed levy looks to cost 18 p/litre (25 US cents).

With the detail to be worked out and various exemptions for small producers etc the exact cost implication to the consumer remains to be seen. The sugar in a litre of 10% SSB probably costs ~4p so this levy is substantial compared to the manufacturer's costs.

There are two bands of levy proposed :-

Soft drinks industry levy
Soft drinks industry levy – The government will introduce a new soft drinks industry levy to be paid by producers and importers of soft drinks that contain added sugar. The levy will be charged on volumes according to total sugar content, with a main rate charge for drink above 5 grams of sugar per 100 millilitres and a higher rate for drinks with more than 8 grams of sugar per 100 millilitres. There will be an exclusion for small operators, and we will consult on the details over the summer, for legislation in Finance Bill 2017 and implementation from April 2018 onwards. (Finance Bill 2017)

Friday, 19 February 2016

Sugar Tax & UK Obesity

This morning the media are awash with PR from a UK Cancer Charity launching a study prepared by a coalition of charities that claims obesity can be reduced by 5% of the UK population by 2025.

I delved into the technical summary as I have an interest in these extrapolations. The claim is that a 20% excise tax levied on sweetened soft drinks could avoid 3.7 million people (about 5%) becoming obese (>=30 BMI) by 2025 and that without the tax obesity will rise from 29% in 2015 to 34% in 2025.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Everyone's a fruit and nut case

Earlier in the week I awoke to the radio pronouncing that eating fruit was better than eating nuts, or some such. Google turned up a Swedish study "A Randomized Study of the Effects of Additional Fruit and Nuts Consumption on Hepatic Fat Content, Cardiovascular Risk Factors and Basal Metabolic Rate" by Christian Agebratt et al.

This study set out to compare the effects of adding about 500 calories a day of either fruit or nut intake to the existing diet of some young lean active healthy Swedish students. The primary objective was to see if the sugar in the fruits had any adverse effect.