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Overview as at 11th March 2020 (Updated 19.3.2020)

Sustained human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus in the United Kingdom and elsewhere appears today inevitable. The extent and impact of the outbreak in the UK is difficult to predict and will depend crucially on how the Government, medical professionals, and the public react. It will depend particularly on whether there is adequate funding and support for the response; fair and effective management of surging health care demand; careful and evidence-based mitigation of public fear; and necessary support and resources for fair and effective infection control. It also falls to each individual to take appropriate and regular self-defence steps, maintain a suitable level of self-hygiene and limit exposure to potential and actual vectors. The most effective way to protect against Covid-19 is to minimise encounters with other people and if possible keep two metres away when you do meet. Clean your hands frequently, keep them away from your face and cover coughs and sneezes with the bend of your elbow or a tissue.

The Covid-19 outbreak is unprecedented in the recent UK and global history (since 1918), and there is no current playbook for an epidemiological event of this scope and magnitude. To mitigate its impact, the government must act swiftly, fairly, and effectively. For up to date data visit https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus.  Flattening the curve — slowing the spread of Covid-19 across space and time — is critical. The health care system cannot sustain a massive influx of infectious cases to emergency departments and hospitals. Patients with mild symptoms should stay home when possible and seek to maintain their personal health and hygiene. In public health practice, “quarantine” refers to the separation of persons (or communities) who have been exposed to an infectious disease. “Isolation,” in contrast, applies to the separation of persons who are known to be infected.

western dietA Western-style diet can be characterised by the consumption of highly #processed and #refined foods, with high contents of #sugars, #salt, and #fat and #protein from red meat. This type of diet has been associated with poor health outcomes as a major contributor to the development of obesity-related diseases as well as an increased incidence of chronic kidney disease. Researchers from Macquarie University in Sydney have now published a new study in the Royal Society Open Science journal linking a western diet to poor #appetite control as well as reduced #cognitive skills.

Microbiome able to predict illness and lifespanTwo new #microbiome studies were published last month both concluding that analysis of the human microbiome is more accurate in determining the individual’s risk of certain diseases and lifespan than their human genome would be. The first study was conducted by the Harvard Medical School and found that overall, an individual’s microbiome was 20% better in predicting disease than the DNA in their human genome, it was also found to be 50% more accurate at predicting colorectal cancer than the genome. In the second study, conducted in Finland, the focus was placed on finding a link between a person’s microbiome and their life span. Here researchers found that individuals whose microbiome contained a greater number of certain species of bacteria were 15% more likely to die within the following 15 years.

Are noncommunicable diseases communicableNoncommunicable diseases (#NCDs), also known as chronic diseases, happen as a result of a combination of genetic, physiological, environmental and behavioural factors, and are not transmissible directly from one person to another. The main types of NCDs are #cardiovascular diseases, #cancer, #asthma and #diabetes, and they now account for 70% of all deaths globally. The definition of NCDs rules out any microbial involvement, but data is increasingly showing us that the microbiota of individuals with various NCDS has been altered. Scientists have transplanted dysbiotic microbiota from animal models of NCDs into healthy animals which have resulted in the disease. The Canadian microbiologist Brett Finlay has recently written an article in Science Mag proposing that some NCDs could have a microbial component capable of communicability via the microbiota.

Using Common Food Compounds to Manage the Gut MicrobiomeThe foods we eat commonly affect our #gut #microbiota by triggering the production of #bacteriophage, which are the viruses that infect and replicate inside #bacteria. The #microbiome is made up of hundreds of different bacteria and the #phages they host. Researchers from San Diego State University have discovered a new way to harness food as medicine by identifying common dietary compounds that can kill specific bacteria without affecting others.

Healthy lifestyle in middle age linked to healthier life expectancyMore people are living longer thanks to the rise in life expectancy, unfortunately this also means that more people are living with diseases such as #diabetes, #cancer and #heart disease. Modifiable lifestyle factors including #smoking, #exercise, #alcohol consumption, #obesity and #diet quality can all affect both total life expectancy and the incidence of chronic disease. Many studies have shown that smoking, inactivity, heavy alcohol consumption and a poor-quality diet contribute towards a high percentage of premature deaths as well as a loss of years in life expectancy. A new study published in the peer-reviewed British Medical Journal, includes data from more than 110,000 people and focuses on the effect of healthy lifestyle factors on a life expectancy free of cancer, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

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Paleolithic diet perhaps not that paleoWhilst our ancestors’ diets would obviously have excluded highly refined foods, new research has been released to show that what they did include was starchy #carbohydrates, something that may cause disbelief amongst many ardent #paleo diet followers. During an excavation at the Border Cave in the Lebombo Mountains, scientists from the Wits Evolutionary Studies Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, have discovered well preserved pieces of fibre rich, carb-heavy, #rhizomes, dated up to 170,000 years ago. This find is at least 50,000 years earlier than previous examples of cooked carbohydrates being eaten.

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‘Nutritional Dark Matter’

Monday, 20 January 2020 by

Nutritional dark matter‘You are what you eat’, the maxim made memorable thanks to Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin in 1826, is as important now as it was then. The vital role #diet plays in #health has been widely documented, but our understanding widely rests on the 150 #nutritional components tracked by national databases which only represent a small section of the 26,000 definable biochemicals in the food supply. This wide range of chemical diversity remains largely invisible both to us and to epidemiological studies, yet the number is only expected to rise as detection techniques improve, leading to a far greater understanding of the links between our diet and health.

heart health benefits of a good good sleepPublished in the European Heart Journal, a pioneering new study from the Tulane University Obesity Research Center, has found that those people with a high genetic risk of #heart disease or #stroke could offset that risk with a healthy #sleep pattern. Scientists conducted a large-scale study with 385,292 participants from the UK Biobank, using them to create a genetic risk score to determine whether individuals were at high, intermediate or low risk of #cardiovascular problems. The participants were followed for 8 years, during this time they recorded 7,280 cases of heart attack or stroke. The lead researcher, Dr. Lu Qi, developed a series of health questions in order to develop a “sleep score” for the participants, considering #insomnia and #snoring, as well as hours spent asleep.

Air pollution linked to depession and suicideThe negative effects of polluted air on our physical health is well documented and emerging evidence is now highlighting the damage it can also cause to our #mental health. University College London have conducted the first systematic review and meta-analysis of evidence connecting air #pollution to a range of mental health problems. The team of researchers reviewed data from 16 countries, looking in detail at 25 studies published up to late 2017, the results have been published in Environmental Health Perspectives.

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