Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?


Coffee shops told to stop selling calorie-rich cakes

Public Health England (PHE) has criticised coffee shops for pushing customers to buy snacks.

They are working with the food industry to reduce the sugar content of foods in shops and are now looking at food eaten outside the home. Chief nutritionist Alison Teddistone said “Coffee shops have got a long way to go”

A muffin adds about 400 calories to an order. Just because it has a healthy sounding name it’s still part of the problem, she says, with all the little nudges to buy extras.

Major coffee chains have committed publicly to reducing sugar and now it is time for all to raise their game. More action is needed to tackle obesity”.

PHE has set a target for cafés restaurants and coffee shops to reduce sugar in their everyday products by 20% by 2020. They are also concerned about takeaway deliveries who are doing a Facebook and saying they are “only connecting people”.  The government is also keen for restaurants, cafés and take-aways to list calories on their menus.

The WHO has warned this week that the UK was the 5th out of 176 nations for cancer linked to obesity. That is truly a shocking statistic, especially for an advanced country like the UK.

PHE said people know smoking is linked to cancer but don’t realise obesity is also increasing the risk of cancer (and diabetes and stroke).

FYI

  • Costa Coffee Blueberry muffin = 434 calories with 25.7 g of sugar
  • Costa Coffee bonfire spiced hot chocolate whole milk = 311 calories with36.5 g of sugar
  • Starbucks skinny blueberry muffin = 312 calories with 24 g of sugar
  • Starbucks venti oat vanilla latte = 438 calories with 52.2 g of sugar
  • Caffe Nero blueberry-filled muffin = 418 calories with 29.1 g of sugar

NHS advises only 30 g of sugar per day

This is all very well but perhaps if people exercised more then they could enjoy these treats in moderation.

And I’ve previously posted about Costa Coffee’s decision to impose semi-skimmed milk on customers without warning or having signs anywhere. They say it’s for health reasons yet still encourage people to have syrup, marshmallows and chocolate logs in their coffee. How hypocritical is that?

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Being a greedy guts can make you more stupid

Neuroscientists in Germany have found that not only does getting fat age your brain quicker but also affects your problem solving and speed of thinking.

And it’s slightly worse for women than men and for people with paunches, rather than for people who put on weight elsewhere on their bodies e.g. their hips.

The findings, by Veronica Witte and colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Human and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, might help to explain why overweight and obese people face a greater risk of cognitive decline and dementia in later life.

They brain-scanned almost 3,000 adults and got them to complete a series of cognitive tests. They found that being overweight seemed to alter the structure of the brain. Basically people with a higher BMI score or a broader waist to to hips comparison had less brain tissue and performed worse in quick-thinking tests.

They can’t prove that obesity changes the brain as they didn’t do a study over a long period and it could be that as people lose white matter in their brains they also lose some control functions and over-eat.

However the scientists believe that “low grade” inflammation that stems from fat cells may gradually eat away sensitive parts of the brain.

Dementia is now the most common cause of death in Britain and effects almost a million people.

Do you need a better reason to eat healthily and exercise?


Brits are fatties and lie about it!

Brits are eating 50% more food than they admit to according to latest research from the Office of National Statistics (ONS).

Apparently we are exceeding the official health recommendations by the equivalent of one Big Mac a day.

Men are consuming 3.119 calories – not the 2,065 they own up to. And women are consuming 2,393 instead of the 1,570 they own up to.

The researchers used the National Diet & Nutrition Survey. Amazingly they found that a third of people in the survey actually claimed to be eating less than they would need to stay alive. People say that they are eating less than in the 1970s but it’s just not true as rising obesity levels illustrate.

This time the researchers used gold standard biological measurements of how energy is metabolised on a subset of the 4,500 in the survey. They then compared what this group said they ate and what the test results showed and extrapolated those finding across the whole sample.

Its’ clear you can’t trust self-report surveys when it comes to eating habits (or I suspect exercise habits as well).

See earlier posts on obesity


Brits are fatties – no getting away from it

  • Almost two out of three British adults are overweight.
  • We are the fattest country in western Europe.
  • Our obesity rates have doubled in the past 20 years.
  • We are the 6th heaviest developed country behind Mexico, the US, New Zealand, Finland, and Australia (some surprises there for me)

We also have high rates of teenage drunkedness (even though teenagers now drink less that previous generations), high cancer rates (and above average cancer deaths) and a shortage of doctors and nurses (18% lower than average for doctors and 12% lower for nurses), according to the OECD.

Our health overall is average for all the OECD countries but our obesity levels stand out. At least our child obesity rates have become stable at 24% unlike the rest of Europe where it is increasing. But that still means 1 in 4 children are very fat!

The worry is that it’s now becoming normal in Britain to be overweight. With Public Health officials being sensitive to medical staff actually telling parents their kids are fat.

The Obesity Health Alliance of doctors and charities said the results were shocking and the solution lies in stopping children becoming obese.

The National Obesity Forum chairman said “One could weep over the figures, the results of successive governments who have done nothing for 30 years”

Public Health England said “our plans to tackle obesity are among the most ambitious. We’re working to make food healthier and delivering campaigns encouraging people to choose healthier food and lead healthier lives. Change will not happen overnight

Perhaps if we called a spade and spade and named and shamed parents of obese kids we might get somewhere instead of pussyfooting around so as not to upset anybody. Letting your kids become obese is child abuse surely?


Did feminism cause obesity?

Yes according Rosie Boycott, a senior food policy advisor to the Mayor of London and founder of feminist magazine Spare Rib.

She said “there is now a lost generation of people who rely on fast food and processed dinners“.

Speaking at the Hay Festival of Literature she said encouraging women to go out to work rather than become housewives resulted in everyone giving up cooking.. “I said “don’t cook …. you’ll get ahead” We lost it. Schools gave up cooking. Everyone gave up cooking.”

(The obesity crisis has ) certainly been fuelled by the fact that women work and that we have allowed this huge change to happenSocieties change, women start working, and the fast food and takeaways arrive“.

Cooking was seen as drudgery by feminists and has been blamed before for the spread of fast-food chains although it is unusual for feminists to actually admit it.

She thinks we should start cooking again, men as well as women. (I’m writing this as the roast chicken dinner I’m preparing for the family is nicely browning in the oven. Just saying.)

And though my mother worked she still cooked us meals, although we helped during the week preparing the vegetables etc. And working mothers back in the day didn’t have all the labour saving devices that you find in a modern kitchen either. Perhaps if women had to go out to work to make ends meet was that doesn’t count as feminism?

Of course other factors have also been blamed such as car use, computer games, clever marketing from food companies pretending they sell healthy food, and sedentary occupations.

And while Scottish hospitals ban the selling of junk food on site English hospitals make a profit from it – now that is unacceptable.

But back to her key point re feminism. The genie is out of the bottle for most people although there are some cultures which discourage women from going out to work and expect them to stay at home and look after their families. Are they less obese? Perhaps the Mayor of London has a view on that?

The NHS thinks that 1 in 4 adults is obese. Obesity levels have trebled in the past 30 years. If the trend continues half the population could be obese by 2050.

The consequences are well-known: diabetes, stroke, cancer and heart disease.

When I posted on this 6 years ago feminism hadn’t been brought into the mix but it’s fascinating thought isn’t it?


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Extreme exercise has its limits

ulearn2bu

stick_figure_running_icon_1600_wht_3621And recent research at the City University in New York found that people only need to do a moderate amount of exercise before they hit a “sweet spot” beyond which extra effort will not burn off more calories.

Going the extra mile, working out until you’re worn out, will not help you lose weight. What seems to happen is that the body takes calories away from other processes such as keeping your reproductive system ticking over and diverts them into your exercise. An earlier study on healthy women showed that when they did more physical exercise their bodies cut back on producing oestrogen, a sex hormone.

With two in three Brits are forecast to be overweight by 2030, much of the present thinking about preventing that is for people to take more exercise and eat less. However this research shows that humans are like other animals in only…

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Denmark’s first dementia village

Denmark has opened a village equipped with a music library, restaurants and shops reserved for dementia sufferers.

Svendborg Demensby on the island of Funen is the first of its kind in Denmark and is modelled on similar villages in Italy, Canada and the Netherlands.

The village of 125 homes was developed on the site of an old brewery which had already been used as a care centre for the elderly. The idea is to give residents the feel of living in a small town and is expected to give dementia sufferers a safer environment and a more fulfilling life in comparison with ordinary sheltered housing. It’s a pilot scheme with plans to open similar projects in Aalborg, Odense and Herning.

The Danish Alzheimer’s Association cautiously welcomed the initiative but voiced worries about the villagers being cut off from the outside world. “It concerns us when special dementia villages are being built where dementia sufferers are excluded from the rest of society,” Nis Peter Nissen, the head of the association, told Danish Radio.

In November, Denmark put forward a national plan aimed at making the country completely “dementia-friendly” by 2025. This has become a political priority for Denmark, where the number of dementia-sufferers is expected to rise to a staggering 150,000 in a nation of 5.6 million by 2040, according to the Danish National Scientific Center for Dementia.

The plan involves three objectives: give dementia sufferers a safe and dignified life, focus on tailor-made care and prevention systems and finally support friends and relatives of dementia sufferers. Last year Danish municipalities started to fit dementia patients with GPS tracking systems. Whereas the initiative gathered mixed reactions from the Danish public, it was warmly received by sheltered housing personnel who dubbed the tracking system “Big Mother.

czpbrjop1pw_hqdn16c8zz_khbc1laomsdqejzlbsgfbrblz_wbci3edqvbst3c8jgmls137The first such project was at Hogewey near Amsterdam in the Netherlands. There they have homes designed to look like the 1950s, 1970s and the 2000s to offer a familiar look which reassures the residents. I seem to remember that they also had different styles to reflect different social classes. A kind of extended reminiscence therapy.

Unlike typical villages, however, this one has cameras monitoring its 150 residents every hour of every day, caretakers posing in street clothes, and only one door in and out of town, all part of a security system designed to keep the community safe. Friends and family are encouraged to visit and some do every day.

hogeweyResidents are cared for by 250 full- and part-time geriatric nurses and specialists, who wander the town and hold a range of occupations in the village, like cashiers, grocery-store attendees, and post-office clerks. There is no money exchange needed as those costs are included in the state-subsidised fees.

Studies have suggested that its inhabitants need less medication and live longer than those in standard care homes.

Further to my last update on dementia there is some good news. As our education improves the risk of developing it falls.

Older people’s risk of getting dementia has fallen by a quarter in just over a decade according to a new US study. Higher levels of education since the second world war seem to be offsetting the risks of obesity and high blood pressure. Although older people are fatter than they used to be it is seen as less of a dementia risk in old age than in middle age.

Another study, in the UK, found that men’s chances of getting dementia at specific ages had dropped by 40% in 20 years as they adopted healthier life styles. Women’s risk levels dropped less. However conditions like obesity and diabetes continue to rise as people live longer.

There’s also the MEND project which claims to get good results in the early stages which I posted about here.

As the population ages it means that more overall are getting dementia and numbers in Britain are expected to tis from 850,000 at present to over a million within 10 years. It has already overtaken heart disease as the leading cause of death in England & Wales.

Overall however it may be that the prevalence of dementia is at least stabilising if not declining in parts of Europe and the USA.