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Category Archives: Life and style
With its front and back LED lights, the Sporty Supaheroe Jacket offers extra safety to runners and cyclists
Calling all cyclists, runners and otherwise athletic individuals: there’s a new, stylish way to stay safe on the roads. A flashy alternative to fluorescent polyester, the Sporty Supaheroe Jacket is a swish new outfit boasting an array of LED lights to alert drivers to your presence – and it could soon be in your wardrobe.
It would certainly be a smart addition. Stretchable polyurethane circuit boards, bearing LEDs, micro controllers and other technical components are contained within water-repellent fabric to create a single bib-like electronic system. This is then inserted into the lining of the jacket and affixed with velcro, a somewhat low-tech solution that nevertheless allows it to be easily detached.
Once in place, the lights shine forth through semi-transparent panels in the outer layer of the jacket, with white LEDs lighting the way ahead and red ones on view to those behind. According to the jacket’s creators, the batteries last for about 10 hours before needing to be recharged but, unless you really are a superhero, it’s likely you will have run out of energy by then, too.
Designed by Wolfgang Langeder for his clothing company Utope, the jacket won a best of the best Red-Dot design award last year and has just launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds to start commercial production. If successful, it could also fuel the development of an app to control the system. But with the jacket itself bearing a price tag of nearly £1,230, you’ll need deep pockets to cash in on this bright idea.
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Bill de Blasio is only the second New York mayor in 21 years to boycott the St Patrick’s Day parade over its ban on gay participants – but is he doing enough?
For the last 10 weeks, Bill de Blasio, the fledgling mayor of New York, has been painting a fresh face on this endlessly changing city. Under the banner “a tale of two cities”, he has pledged to overcome the growing gulf between rich and poor and re-establish New York as a global hub of progressive politics.
But in the last few days he has been embroiled in a tale of two cities of a different order. Not rich versus poor, but tolerant and modern versus bigoted and antiquated.
The focal point is the St Patrick’s Day parade, the oldest Irish tradition in America, that has been held every year since 1762, more than a decade before the declaration of independence. On 17 March, 200,000 marchers, many in city uniform, will strut up Fifth Avenue from 44th Street to 79th Street in front of a million-strong crowd in celebration of all things Irish. Well, not all things Irish. Not gay or lesbian Irish. In 1991 a gay group that gained an invitation to march was showered with abuse from spectators, prompting organisers to institute a ban the following year. Since 1993, when the federal courts sanctioned the ban, the parade’s organisers have blocked the attendance of gay individuals or groups who openly display their sexual identity.
A similar prohibition has existed in the St Patrick’s Day parade in Boston since 1995, when the US supreme court ruled it was the organisers’ first amendment right to dictate who they allowed to march.
This perennial sore, which has provoked protests every year for more than two decades, has now erupted into the public glare, partly as a result of the stance taken by De Blasio, who has broken with tradition and vowed to boycott the proceedings.
The move is in tune with the mayor’s actions in his first two months in office, in which he has attempted to kick the city, sometimes squealing, in a liberal direction.
He has waged a very public fight with the governor of New York state, Andrew Cuomo, over raising taxes on wealthy New Yorkers; pushed his plan for universal pre-kindergarten education; put a stop to the controversial policing tactic of stop-and-frisk ; and appointed a slew of progressive activists to top city hall jobs.
With all that under way, De Blasio could hardly stand by and watch impassively as the St Patrick’s Day parade went ahead, anti-gay ban stubbornly in place. As a result, on 17 March the parade will go ahead without the mayor of New York in attendance for the first time in more than 20 years. De Blasio will earn himself the distinction of being the first mayor since David Dinkins in 1992 to boycott the event.
Last weekend De Blasio underscored his decision by turning up at a counter event called the St Pat’s For All parade in Queens. “This parade is what New York City is all about,” he said sparingly, without alluding directly to the spat with the official parade.
For seasoned observers of New York, such as Tom Finkel, editor-in-chief of Village Voice, the surprising element of De Blasio’s stand is how long it has been in coming. “He clearly feels the climate is ripe for this – his predecessors [Michael Bloomberg and Rudy Giuliani] didn’t judge it expedient to cross this line in the past.”
Finkel believes the fact the ban still exists in 2014 underlines the multifariousness of New York, or as Walt Whitman famously said about himself, that it “contains multitudes”. “When New Yorkers look outward we are tempted to see the world as a very progressive place, but if you look a little closer – even inside the city – you find it’s not so simple.”
And yet a wind of change is blowing forcefully across America. Seventeen states, including New York, have incorporated gay marriages, and even the most conservative states such as Arizona and Kansas have held back from enacting overtly discriminatory anti-gay legislation, for fear of damaging the local economy.
Which leaves the New York parade looking all the more retrograde and anomalous, bizarrely so for a city that lays claim to being the progressive capital of America. So what has the parade committee to say about all this?
The organisers did not respond to a request for comment from the Observer. It is perhaps a sign of the times that a prominent supporter would defend the ban only on the basis of anonymity. The individual, who works for one of the parade’s big sponsors, said that the story was far more nuanced than LGBT campaigners had suggested. “This is a parade that celebrates the Irish Catholic community in America. We want to be tolerant and accepting,” he said.
So why wasn’t the parade tolerant and accepting?
“The parade committee has been guarded about keeping politics out of the parade. It is not anti-homosexual, it merely wants to prevent people carrying signs that affirm homosexuality.”
The sponsor went on to suggest that gay and lesbian groups were actively avoiding applying to march because that suited their political purposes. He recommended they set up a group in honour of Fr Mychal Judge, chaplain to the New York City fire department who died in 9/11 and who was revealed after his death to have been a non-practising gay man. “They could march under his name and avoid words like ‘pride’ or ‘homosexuality’, and that might be fine,” he said.
A similar approach has been taken in Boston this year where parade organisers have been in groundbreaking, but so far fruitless, discussions with the gay rights group MassEquality. The sticking point was the insistence by the parade committee that marchers not wear anything that signalled their sexual orientation.
“We made it clear that we would only march if LGBT people are able to march openly and honestly,” said MassEquality’s director Kara Coredini. To which the head of the parade committee, Philip Wuschke, replied: “We gave them what we figured was reasonable. They wanted it all.”
Emmaia Gelman, whose ancestors came from Co Cavan in Ireland, runs the blog of the New York-based LGBT group Irish Queers. She explained why she hadn’t applied to march: “Why would I want to? I don’t want to march with guys who hate me.”
Her only objective, she said, was to put an end to the homophobia that the parade enshrined. In that regard, she and her fellow campaigners were disappointed that in their view De Blasio had not gone far enough. The mayor might be boycotting the event himself, but, ignoring the demands of protesters, he has made clear he will allow officers of the NYPD and fire department, who make up a large proportion of the marchers, to attend if they wish.
That has given Bill Bratton, the media-savvy new police commissioner of New York, space to announce that he will attend. “My sister is gay,” Bratton said, a remark that failed to impress LGBT campaigners.
“City officials, whose salaries are paid for by the people of New York, absolutely do not have the right to march in a homophobic parade. That’s a hard message for De Blasio to give to police officers about their favourite parade, but it’s still the right thing to do,” Gelman said.
So the 2014 St Patrick’s Day parade promises to be another lively affair, and not just because of the copious amounts of alcohol that will flow throughout the city. For De Blasio, the dispute threatens to become a persistent headache that could run throughout his term in office, dragging on him as he struggles to revive New York’s reputation as the world’s greatest liberal city.
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Caffeine is the drug many of us can’t live without – but do you have any idea how much is in your daily hit?
Propped up on my desk before me, there is a vacuum-sealed bag of white powder. Chemists would recognise this substance as a methylated xanthine, composed of tiny crystalline structures. It is a drug, and I have been under its influence nearly every day for the past 25 years. It is caffeine, and in moderation it makes us feel good. But it is a drug whose strength is consistently underestimated. You’d need to down about 50 cups of coffee at once, or 200 cups of tea, to approach a lethal level of caffeination – but if you go straight for the powder, you can get a lot very quickly.
On 9 April 2010, 23-year-old Michael Bedford was at a party near his home in Mansfield. He ate two spoonfuls of caffeine powder he’d bought online, and washed them down with an energy drink. He began slurring his words, then vomited, collapsed and died. It’s likely he ingested more than 5g of caffeine. The coroner cited caffeine’s “cardiotoxic effects” as the cause of death.
How much caffeine is the average person taking on daily? When someone asks about our caffeine habits, we tend to reply in terms of how many cups of coffee we drink. But this is a wildly inadequate measure. One 40ml cup of coffee – the size often used in studies of caffeine consumption – could have less than 60mg of caffeine, while one 450ml cup could have nearly 10 times as much, but both could be considered one cup of coffee.
In an effort to make this easier, I came up with a measure called a Standard Caffeine Dose, or Scad. A Scad is 75mg. This is roughly equal to a shot of espresso, 150ml of coffee, a 250ml can of Red Bull, two 350ml cans of Coke or Pepsi, or a pint of Diet Coke. I take about four or five Scads daily. On a two-Scad day, I will feel slow; on a seven-Scad day, jittery.
Anyone will tell you that the British have remained allied with tea, not coffee, but that is only partly true. While the British still drink more tea, by volume, than coffee, they now get more of their caffeine from coffee than from tea. Surprisingly, colas and energy drinks now contribute nearly as much caffeine to the British diet as tea: 34mg daily versus 36mg daily.
It is not easy to know how much caffeine is in your daily cup of coffee. Forensic toxicologist Bruce Goldberger used to work in Baltimore, identifying lethal drugs in the blood of overdose victims. But he turned his mind to a question with broader appeal: how much caffeine are we getting in our beverages? He and his colleagues analysed the contents of coffee drinks, publishing the results in 2003. They found huge caffeine differences not only between coffee brands but also between coffees from the same shop. He bought a 480ml cup of coffee from one branch of Starbucks on six consecutive days. Each time, he ordered the Breakfast Blend. The cup with the least caffeine had 260mg. One had twice that amount. Yet another clocked in at a whopping 564mg.
For a study published in 2012, Scottish researcher Thomas Crozier and his colleagues bought 20 espressos in Glasgow cafes. They found that the caffeine concentration varied from 56mg to 196mg per 28ml, with four cafes serving up espressos containing more than 200mg of caffeine.
Crozier and Goldberger’s studies help to answer a question that many coffee drinkers have asked: why is it that on some days one cup of coffee puts you in absolute equipoise – brilliant but steady, relaxed but energetic – while other days it is not even enough to prop open your eyelids? And on other occasions, that very same cup, from the same cafe, will send you to the moon, jittery and anxious, your heart skittering? It is because the caffeine levels in coffee vary dramatically, depending on the natural growing conditions, the variety of coffee plant and the brewing strength.
Roland Griffiths is a prolific drug researcher. “I’m a psychopharmacologist, so I’m interested in the mood-altering effects of drugs,” he says. “Caffeine to me is maybe the most fascinating compound, because it clearly is psychoactive, yet it is completely culturally accepted worldwide, or almost worldwide.” While we talk, he sips caffeine-free Diet Coke from a mug bearing the structural diagram of the caffeine molecule.
Even though caffeine is not considered to be a drug of abuse, it has all the features of one, Griffiths says. “That is, it alters mood, it produces physical dependence and withdrawal upon abstinence, and some proportion of the population becomes dependent on it.”
When Griffiths started his experiments on caffeine, he was a heavy user: “I think my consumption was probably 500-600mg a day, maybe higher.” That’s more than one litre of good coffee. When he decided to study caffeine withdrawal, he did it the hard way, personally going from a daily dose of seven Scads down to zero, and paying close attention to the havoc it wreaked on his body and brain. Did he go cold turkey? “No, no! I’m enough of a psychopharmacologist to know that’s not how I would want to do it. I tapered back.”
As part of a series of studies, using themselves as guinea pigs, Griffiths and his colleagues went on a steady daily dose of 100mg of caffeine. In one experiment, their caffeine was cut altogether for 12 days. Four of the seven subjects experienced symptoms including headaches, lethargy and an inability to concentrate. In the second phase, the researchers, still on a steady 100mg daily dose, went for single days without caffeine, separated by more than a week. In this case, “each of the seven subjects demonstrated a statistically significant withdrawal effect”.
These scientists were not withdrawing from massive doses of caffeine, just the amount in about 150–240ml of coffee, a Scad and a third. That is all it takes to get hooked.
Coca-Cola owes its success to caffeine. Its early formulation had 80mg of caffeine per 250ml serving, and it was marketed as a pick-me-up. That was in 1909, when the US federal government first tried and failed to corral the emerging caffeine economy, leaving a vacuum that persists to this day. The American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has long practised a dual regulatory role for caffeine, regulating it when it’s packaged as an over-the-counter medication and mostly ignoring it when it is blended into drinks or labelled as a dietary supplement. But the new generation of energy products seems to have caught their attention.
When you crack open a can of Monster Energy, you first hear the hiss of the escaping carbonation. Poured into a glass, Monster is about the colour of a pale ale. On the tongue, well, it’s an acquired taste: slightly metallic, syrupy sweet, a faint hint of orange and cream. No, it’s not a hot cup of Colombian, but you could get used to it. Millions have. With a striking logo of three neon green claw marks and the slogan “Unleash the beast”, Monster seems to be everywhere. In 2011, it surpassed Red Bull in US energy drink sales, by volume, according to Beverage Digest.
Monster evolved from a product called Hansen’s Energy, introduced by the juice company Hansen’s Natural in 1997. Sales took off in 2002 when they came up with the Monster name, its memorable slogan and distinctive logo. (The claw-mark logo is now a popular tattoo, even among high school students.) Hansen’s made its Monster cans twice the size of a Red Bull, but charged the same price. They developed a marketing strategy like those of other energy drinks, targeting young males with an energetic blend of heavy metal bands, action sports festivals and bikini models. Within seven years, it was a billion-dollar brand, with sales of nearly $2.4bn in 2012.
In the summer of that year, New York state attorney general Eric Schneiderman started to look at the marketing and advertising practices of companies who make energy drinks. Meanwhile, several US senators were putting pressure on the FDA to better regulate the industry. In August, FDA assistant commissioner for legislation Jeanne Ireland responded to the senators’ concerns with a five-page letter outlining the regulatory framework for energy drinks. She also discussed a death that was getting some attention.
Anais Fournier, a 14-year-old from Hagerstown, Maryland, drank a can of Monster on 16 December 2011. The next evening, with her friends at the Valley Mall, she drank another can of Monster Energy, bought from a sweet shop. Each can contained 240mg of caffeine (three Scads). A few hours after leaving the mall, Fournier was at home watching a movie with her family when she went into cardiac arrest and fell unconscious. At the hospital, doctors put her into a medically induced coma. Six days later, she was taken off life support and died. The coroner listed the cause of death as “cardiac arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity complicating mitral valve regulation in the setting of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome” (a pre-existing medical condition).
In November 2012, the FDA released a comprehensive list of nearly eight years of what they call “adverse event reports” (consumer complaints) related to Monster, Rockstar and 5-Hour Energy products. It was a list of 93 events, including 13 deaths. There is no way of knowing whether the energy products caused the deaths, but it was enough to scare the public and prompt the FDA to announce an investigation. They advised that people should consult their doctor before consuming energy drinks or shots. This seemed notable – dramatic, even – particularly considering the fact that the agency does not recommend checking with GPs before drinking colas or coffee.
It is hard to unravel the health problems attributed to energy drinks. Any of us who use caffeine eventually take more than we want to and might experience the sensation of a pounding heart. A bit too much caffeine is unlikely to harm your heart. Even among those people with arrhythmias – disorders that cause the heart to beat too fast, too slowly or irregularly – caffeine does little harm. A 2011 literature review published in the American Journal of Medicine found no reason for concern. “It is understandable that most physicians are unsure of the advice they can provide about caffeine intake and arrhythmias,” Daniel Pelchovitz and Jeffrey Goldberger wrote. “In most patients with known or suspected arrhythmia, caffeine in moderate doses is well tolerated and there is therefore no reason to restrict ingestion of caffeine.” It would be easy to be sceptical of this finding: Goldberger is a consultant for Red Bull, and there is the sense that caffeine can feel hard on the heart. But, despite numerous studies, doctors have been unable to find a link between moderate caffeine use and heart disease or disturbance in most people. However, recent research does suggest an association between coffee and nonfatal heart attacks in people with a genetic predisposition to metabolise caffeine slowly.
It would be safe to assume that if a 240mg dose of caffeine, which Fournier consumed, could kill a person, then Starbucks would have seen at least a few deaths from its coffee, which might contain this amount of caffeine in a 350ml or 500ml cup. A person might drink energy drinks and then have a heart problem, but did the former cause the latter, or are they unrelated? It might be that people who suffer a heart attack after drinking an energy shot or energy drink are more likely to associate the heart trouble with the product than are people who suffer heart attacks after drinking coffee. It would be a simple explanation, and one that could hold some appeal for the energy drink industry. But in Fournier’s case there was the coroner’s report listing caffeine toxicity as the cause of death (although the coroner also mentioned a pre-existing medical condition).
On 17 October 2012, a team of attorneys filed a civil action with the Riverside County Superior Court of California. It was titled “Wendy Crossland and Richard Fournier; individually and as surviving parents of Anais Fournier v Monster Beverage Corporation.” The case contained seven complaints, including negligence and wrongful death. The lawyers sent out a press release, quoting Fournier’s mother. “I was shocked to learn the FDA can regulate caffeine in a can of soda, but not these huge energy drinks,” Wendy Crossland said. “These drinks are targeting teenagers with no oversight or accountability. [They] are death traps for young, developing girls and boys, like my daughter Anais.”
Monster is defending the case. It is questioning the medical evidence and claims Fournier regularly drank energy drinks and Starbucks coffee. It says the autopsy report of caffeine toxicity was based only on Fournier’s mother’s report of her drinking an energy drink, not on a blood test. It has also detailed her heart conditions.
On 1 May 2013, a gaggle of food industry honchos from Wrigley, Mars and legal and lobbying firm Patton Boggs, which represents the soft drink industry, rushed in to see Michael Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine. On 29 April, Taylor had announced the agency would be investigating the safety of adding caffeine to food products for the first time since 1980. Surprisingly, the item that finally spurred the FDA into action was not any of the more extreme energy products, but a gum.
In April, Wrigley had introduced Alert Energy Caffeine Gum. But a week after the delegation met with the FDA, on 8 May, Wrigley said it was pulling the product from the market. “After discussions with the FDA, we have a greater appreciation for its concern about the proliferation of caffeine in the nation’s food supply,” Wrigley announced. “We have paused the production, sales and marketing of Alert.”
A month later, I went to Maryland to interview Taylor. He told me that the new energy products have broken out of the typical boundaries around caffeine and are a far cry from coffee, tea and chocolate. And in the process, the food industry is skirting food additive regulations. Taylor drinks coffee and Diet Coke (sometimes caffeine-free), and understands the challenge of regulating caffeine and the limits regulators might face. “I got asked by somebody, ‘Are we going to put age limits on coffee, so if you go to Starbucks, would you have to show ID?’ I would consider that not realistic,” he said. But he made a distinction between the more traditional uses of caffeine and the new breed of energy drinks. Holding a can of Monster, he said, “This is not a historic, cultural aspect of caffeine… What I found disturbing on this front was that in no case did the companies that are making these decisions come to us… and subject themselves to the scrutiny that would come.” The entire energy products industry, worth more than $10bn annually, has grown without the FDA’s explicit approval.
The UK is moving ahead of the US in caffeine labelling. Starting in December, the Food Standards Agency will require new labels for energy drinks. Any drinks with caffeine concentrations higher than 150mg per litre must carry this label: “High caffeine content. Not recommended for children or pregnant or breastfeeding women.” The label must be placed in the same field of vision as the name of the energy drink and show the quantity of caffeine. It will appear on Red Bull, for example, with its concentration of 320mg per litre, but not Coca-Cola, with a lower concentration of 95mg per litre. In November last year, meanwhile, Morrisons became the first UK supermarket chain to ban sales of high-caffeine energy drinks to children.
Walking out of FDA headquarters, I passed a display case of the agency’s notable efforts. There were packages of the drug thalidomide. There were a few patent medicines. The only caffeine was in a bottle of Formula One, an ephedra-caffeine blend that has been linked with heart trouble. (Supplements containing ephedra were banned and Formula One was reformulated.) I wondered what the case might hold in 20 years. Maybe some example of caffeinated excess now on the market – or, more likely, one that has yet to be formulated.
Travelling back to Maine that afternoon, I stopped for petrol. The counter next to the cash register was cluttered with energy shots and energy strips. And there, tucked into the front of the display tray, was a single pack of the Wrigley Alert Energy gum. It was the first I’d seen of the product Wrigley had tried to pull off the shelves. Of course, I bought it. Who knows? It might be worth something some day.
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Local authority’s case against woman who had child with foetal alcohol syndrome could have far-reaching legal implications
A pioneering compensation claim on behalf of a child who was severely damaged by her mother’s heavy drinking during pregnancy is to go before the court of appeal.
Permission has been given for the court to hear allegations that the mother ignored warnings from social workers and antenatal medical staff that her heavy alcohol consumption risked harming her unborn baby.
The lawsuit is being filed by a local authority in north-west England, which cares for the child, who is now six years old, against the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority. It maintains the mother’s action constituted the crime of poisoning under section 23 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.
The mother is no longer in contact with the child, who has suffered developmental problems. Foetal alcohol syndrome can result in babies being born with brain damage as well as distorted facial features. The local authority won its claim in the initial hearing but lost in the upper administrative tribunal on the grounds that an unborn child is not a person in law and therefore no criminal offence could have been committed.
The case has provoked a wide-ranging debate about the rights of the foetus and calls for mothers who drink excessively during pregnancy to be prosecuted. Neil Sugarman, of GLP Solicitors, who is representing the local authority, said some US states have made it a criminal offence.
He welcomed the legal permision allowing the case to go to the court of appeal. “This case involves a child who is now six years old and was born with foetal alcohol syndrome after her birth mother continued to drink alcohol excessively during pregnancy after having been warned that this might damage her child,” he said.
“At an original appeal hearing a tribunal decided that this was tantamount to poisoning the child and that she had been the subject of a violent crime for the purposes of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme.” He said he would challenge the accepted legal convention that an unborn child cannot be a person under law. The case, he maintained, resulted in very similar injuries to cases involving young infants who were shaken violently shortly after birth and suffered severe brain damage.
If successful, the case could create a legal precedent with far-reaching implications about a pregnant woman’s right to control her body and whether a foetus has legal rights before it is born. It is likely to take several months to come to court.
People under 65 who eat a lot of meat, eggs and dairy are four times as likely to die from cancer or diabetes, study suggests
A diet rich in meat, eggs, milk and cheese could be as harmful to health as smoking, according to a controversial study into the impact of protein consumption on longevity.
High levels of dietary animal protein in people under 65 years of age was linked to a fourfold increase in their risk of death from cancer or diabetes, and almost double the risk of dying from any cause over an 18-year period, researchers found. However, nutrition experts have cautioned that it’s too early to draw firm conclusions from the research.
The overall harmful effects seen in the study were almost completely wiped out when the protein came from plant sources, such as beans and legumes, though cancer risk was still three times as high in middle-aged people who ate a protein-rich diet, compared with those on a low-protein diet.
But whereas middle-aged people who consumed a lot of animal protein tended to die younger from cancer, diabetes and other diseases, the same diet seemed to protect people’s health in old age.
The findings emerged from a study of 6,381 people aged 50 and over who took part in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) which tracks a representative group of adults and children in the US.
The study throws doubt on the long-term health effects of the popular Atkins and Paleo diets that are rich in protein. Instead, it suggests people should eat a low-protein diet until old age when they start to lose weight and become frail, and then boost the body’s protein intake to stay healthy. In the over-65s, a high-protein diet cut the risk of death from any cause by 28%, and reduced cancer deaths by 60%, according to details of the study published in the journal Cell Metabolism.
Valter Longo, director of the Longevity Institute at the University of Southern California, said that on the basis of the study and previous work, people should restrict themselves to no more than 0.8g of protein a day for every kilogram of body weight, equivalent to 48g for a 60kg person, and 64g for an 80kg person.
“People need to switch to a diet where only around nine or ten percent of their calories come from protein, and the ideal sources are plant-based,” Longo told the Guardian. “We are not saying go and do some crazy diet we came up with. If we are wrong, there is no harm done, but if we are right you are looking at an incredible effect that in general is about as bad as smoking.”
“Spend a couple of months looking at the labels on your food. There is a little bit of protein everywhere. If you eat breakfast, you might get 4g protein, but a piece of chicken for lunch may have 50g protein,” said Longo, who skips lunch to control his calorie and protein intake.
People who took part in the study consumed an average of 1,823 calories a day, with 51% coming from carbohydrates, 33% from fat, and 16% from protein, of which two thirds was animal protein. Longo divided them into three groups. The high-protein group got 20% or more of their calories from protein, the moderate group got 10 to 19% of their calories from protein, and the low group got less than 10% of calories from protein.
Teasing out the health effects of individual nutrients is notoriously difficult. The apparently harmful effects of a high-protein diet might be down to one or more other substances in meat, or driven by lifestyle factors that are more common in regular red meat eaters versus vegetarians. Other factors can skew results too: a person on the study who got ill might have gone off their food, and seen a proportional rise in the amount of calories they get from protein. In that case, it would be the illness driving the diet, not the other way round.
“I would urge general caution over observational studies, and particularly when looking at diet, given the difficulties of disentangling one nutrient or dietary component from another. You can get an association that might have some causal linkage or might not,” said Peter Emery, head of nutrition and dietetics at King’s College London.
Gunter Kuhnle, a food nutrition scientist at Reading University, said it was wrong “and potentially even dangerous” to compare the effects of smoking with the effect of meat and cheese as the study does.
“Sending out [press] statements such as this can damage the effectiveness of important public health messages. They can help to prevent sound health advice from getting through to the general public. The smoker thinks: ‘why bother quitting smoking if my cheese and ham sandwich is just as bad for me?’”
Heather Ohly at the European Centre for Environment and Human Health in Exeter said: “Smoking has been proven to be entirely bad for us, whereas meat and cheese can be consumed in moderation as part of a healthy diet, contributing to recommended intakes of many important nutrients.”
Most people in Britain eat more protein than they need. The British Dietetic Association recommends a daily intake of 45g and 55g of protein for the average woman and man respectively. But according to the British Nutrition Foundation the average protein intake per day is 88g and 64g for men and women.
In a series of follow-up experiments, Longo looked at what might lie behind the apparently damaging effects of a high-protein diet on health in middle age. Blood tests on people in the study showed that levels of a growth hormone called IGF-1 rose and fell in line with protein intake. For those on a high protein diet, rises in IGF-1 steadily increased their cancer risk. Further tests on mice found that a high-protein diet led to more cancer and larger tumours than a low-protein diet.
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Catalan chef says his plan to convert the award-winning restaurant into a training and research centre is ’95% finished’
Spanish star chef Ferran Adrià unveiled plans on Tuesday for a “cooking laboratory”, museum and database of top recipes at his world-beating restaurant elBulli.
Adrià, whose eatery was crowned best in the world five times by Britain’s Restaurant magazine before it closed in 2011, gave a preview of the “elBulli foundation”, which he said would open next year.
For over two decades the Catalan chef, now 51, pushed the boundaries of cuisine, using hi-tech methods to take apart and rebuild foods in surprising ways.
He served the last meal there in July 2011 and announced his plan to convert it into a training and research centre, so he could concentrate on culinary innovation instead of running the restaurant.
“This foundation has been three years in preparation and is now 95% finished,” he told reporters in Barcelona on Tuesday.
The new entity will consist of three parts, including an exhibition on the history of cooking titled elBulli 1846 and a cooking research “laboratory” called elBulli DNA.
The laboratory will host “40 people from around the world, from cooks to designers to architects”, Adrià said.
“We will work on efficiency and innovation and the final result will be about cooking and will be published on the internet.”
The third part of the foundation will be the “Bullipedia”, a “gastronomic encyclopedia” including a database of recipes and ingredients.
“There will be an exhibition space on the one hand and a creative space on the other,” Adrià said.
It will all be housed in the former restaurant’s premises, in a nature reserve overlooking the Mediterranean near the resort of Roses, a two-hour drive north of Barcelona.
Adrià said regional authorities were willing to change environmental norms so he could build an extension to house the exhibition space, a prospect that has raised concern among nature groups.
“There will be no environmental impact,” Adrià promised. “This is a social project. But we want consensus and good relations.”
OECD survey shows UK’s overall participation in labour market puts it 18th out of 27 nations for gender equality
The UK continues to lag behind many comparable major economies for the scope and fairness of women’s employment, new research has shown.
According to a survey of 27 OECD member nations, the UK’s overall record on women’s participation in the labour market puts it 18th out of 27 nations. The latest index measured gender pay gap, women’s participation rate, unemployment rates and proportion of women in full-time, rather than part-time, employment.
While the UK has made progress in equalising earnings between men and women and getting more women into the workplace, the slow pace of change has seen it outstripped by other countries since 2000. The difference in pay has diminished from 26% in 2000 to 18% in 2012 in the UK – slightly worse than the OECD average differential of 16%.
The PwC Women in Work index ranks the UK far behind the Nordic countries, with Norway still leading the way, followed by Denmark and Sweden.
Yong Jing Teow, an economist at PwC, said: “It is encouraging that the UK is making gradual headway on closing the gender pay gap, but there is still a long way to go before we catch up with other countries and fully close this wage gap.
“It is disappointing that UK women’s pace of progress in the labour market has been relatively poor since 2000. If we want to see a meaningful change to women’s economic empowerment in the UK, we will have to speed up the rate of change, otherwise we risk falling further behind other high-income economies.”
While the proportion of women in the UK who work is above the OECD average, the percentage holding full-time jobs was lower than in all but two other countries.
The research indicated Europe’s economic crisis had particularly set back the advance of women in the workplace, with pay disparities and female unemployment rates increasing in Portugal, Spain and Greece in 2012, the most recent full year’s data, the most recent year for which figures are available.
Last week a separate European commission report calculated the pay gap between men and women at 16.4% across the EU, with the UK still one of the worst offenders despite having slightly narrowed its disparity to 19%.
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