Diabetes drug may help in leukaemia

A drug used to treat diabetes could help in the fight against blood cancer, early research in the journal Nature suggests.

A drug used to treat diabetes could help in the fight against blood cancer, early research in the journal Nature suggests.

An international team of scientists gave the drug to patients with chronic myeloid leukaemia, alongside standard treatment.

Those who received the combination therapy were more likely to be free of the disease for longer.

Chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML) is a rare blood cancer. About 600 people are diagnosed with the condition each year in the UK.

Though a number of successful treatments exist, they do not help every patient and some become resistant to conventional therapy.

In this study, scientists gave a combination of the anti-diabetic drug pioglitazone and standard treatment to 24 patients whose CML remained active despite receiving conventional drugs.

After 12 months, more than 50% of the patients given the combination treatment were in remission.

And the first three patients to be given the drug had no reoccurrences of cancer in the five years that followed.

Scientists hope this combination therapy approach may prove helpful for other similar cancers.

Patients with untreated CML make excessive numbers of abnormal white blood cells.

Over time, these can crowd out the normal white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets a person has, making it harder for patients to mount a defence against infections and causing some people to bleed more easily.

The current standard treatment includes therapies such as imatinib.

Prof Peter Johnson, Cancer Research UK’s chief clinician, said: “The outlook for people with chronic myeloid leukaemia has improved dramatically since the introduction of drugs like imatinib.”

“But for some patients these drugs aren’t always effective. This study is an interesting example of how understanding the biology of cancer stem cells could help improve treatment for these patients.”

“However, this is early stage research and only a small number of patients have been studied. It will be interesting to see if this combination is also successful in larger clinical trials.”

Other experts add that the side-effects of pioglitazone would also have to be taken into account if this treatment were to be offered in routine care.

Two thirds of Britons will be overweight or obese by 2025

Two thirds of British adults will be overweight or obese by 2025, new figures show

Two thirds of British adults will be overweight or obese by 2025, new figures show

Two thirds of Britons will be overweight or obese by 2025, new figures from the World Obesity Federation ( WOF) suggest.

Within just ten years, seven in ten men and 62 per cent of women will be carrying too much weight, placing a huge health burden on the NHS.

Weight gain is a risk factor for many health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke and some cancers. Obesity and diabetes already costs the UK over £5 billion every year which is likely to rise to £50 billion by 2050.

Currently around 66 per cent of men are overweight or obese and 57 per cent of women. However 74 per cent of men will be overweight or obese by 2030 and 64 per cent of women according to new figures.

The figures are in sharp contrast to countries like Belgium, Germany and Finland where the number of overweight or obese people is expected to barely change in the next decade.

In 2011 the World Health Organisation (WHO) set a goal for 2025 of no increase in obesity or diabetes beyond 2010 levels. But no country is set to achieve that target.

The WOF said that the government must act to impose taxes on fatty and sugary foods and make healthy food cheaper.

However Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary has ruled out any measures, claiming that the food industry is already voluntarily working to make products more nutritious.

Dr Tim Lobstein, Director of Policy at the World Obesity Federation said “Common risk factors such as soft drink consumption and sedentary working environments, have increased, fast food advertising continues and greater numbers of people live in urban environments without access to green spaces.

“Governments should take a number of actions to help prevent obesity, including introducing tough regulations to protect children from the marketing of unhealthy food and introducing taxes and subsidies to make healthier food cheaper and unhealthy food more expensive.”

The figures show that within the next 10 years, nearly five million more men and women will become overweight or obese in Britain bringing the total to 36 million. The number of severely obese adults will also rise by 40 per cent from three million people to more than four million.

WOF Professor Walmir Coutinho, said “The obesity epidemic has reached virtually every country worldwide, and overweight and obesity levels are set to continue to rise. Governments know the present epidemic is unsustainable and doing nothing is not an option.

They have agreed to tackle obesity and to bring down obesity prevalence to 2010 levels by the year 2025. “If governments hope to achieve the WHO target of keeping obesity at 2010 levels, then the time to act is now.”

Can seaweed really help you lose weight?

Jamie Oliver has revealed how he shed almost two stone after learning about “simple foods that are nutritious and delicious”.

Jamie Oliver has revealed how he shed almost two stone after learning about "simple foods that are nutritious and delicious".

As well as switching to cutting out white, unprocessed foods and eating more vegetables, he has also added seaweed to his diet.

But can this coastal plant really help you shed those pesky post summer holiday pounds?

Last year, research from Newcastle University suggested that seaweed could be a key ingredient to losing weight as a compound found in it stops the body from absorbing fat.

Research found that alginate, which is found in sea kelp, can help to suppress the digestion of fat in the gut.

The researchers believe that if the alginates can block the fat digesting enzyme, the body will absorb less fat and stop people from becoming obese.

However, the NHS warned that the research did not “draw any definitive conclusions” and that it was “unclear whether any potential effect from from seaweed extract would lead to an improvement in weight-related health issues, such as a reduced risk of diabetes.”

They also say that blocking fat is not always beneficial for you: “Fat plays an important role in metabolism; it’s just the intake of excessive fat that is a health problem. This means that the potential for alginate to stop excess fat being absorbed by the body has its downsides, and the excess fat will have to come out in come capacity.”

It looks the jury is still out on seaweed’s weight-loss properties – but as it’s so delicious, we reckon it’s worth adding a little extra to your diet anyway.

Smoking risk factor for type 2 diabetes

Smokers who quit could lower their risk of type 2 diabetes in the long term, research suggests.

Smokers who quit could lower their risk of type 2 diabetes in the long term, research suggests.

The data, from almost six million people, adds to growing evidence that smoking and type 2 diabetes are linked.

If the link is proven, efforts to reduce smoking could have a big impact on tackling diabetes worldwide, say researchers.

An international team pulled together data from 88 studies on smoking risk and type 2 diabetes.

They found that current smokers had about 1.4 times the risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared with non smokers.

Although the risk of diabetes went up slightly (to about 1.5 times) for several years after quitting smoking, it fell to about 1.2 times after five years of not smoking.

Commenting on the research, published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology journal, Prof Naveed Sattar, of the University of Glasgow, called on doctors to mention smoking as a risk factor for diabetes.

“They should mention that, as well as being a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and many cancers, smoking should also be regarded as a risk factor for diabetes albeit with a small effect relative to, for example, lung cancer,” he said.

The research adds to evidence of a link between smoking and type 2 diabetes, but does not prove that smoking directly causes it.

The experts estimate that 12% of global diabetes cases in men and 2% in women could be due to cigarette smoking, if a causal link were proven.

Dr Richard Elliott, of the charity Diabetes Research UK, said it was important to stress that people with diabetes were at increased risk of cardiovascular complications, so smoking was even more harmful for people with diabetes than for people without the condition.

“So the strong advice is that if you smoke, whether or not you have diabetes, giving up is the single most important thing you can do for your future health,” he said.

Weight loss surgery cures half of type-2 diabetes cases

Weight loss surgery cures half of patients with type-2 diabetes, for at least five years, a study suggests.

Weight loss surgery cures half of patients with type-2 diabetes, for at least five years, a study suggests.

The trial, on 60 people, published in the Lancet, found none of those with type 2 had been cured by medication and diet alone.

The surgery improves symptoms both through weight loss and by changing the way the gut functions.

Experts said the results were “remarkable” and that too few people were getting access to the surgery.

The team, at King’s College London and the Universita Cattolica in Rome, compared standard drug therapy with surgery to rewire the digestive tract.

The operations reduced the size of the stomach and left less of the intestines exposed to food.

Prof Francesco Rubino, who operated on the patients said “Surgery is able to produce prolonged remission in 50% of cases, patients get to levels of blood sugar that is non-diabetes for five years.

“However, 80% who had surgery were able to maintain ‘optimal control’ of blood sugar despite only taking one drug or nothing at all.”

While some of those patients still had type-2 diabetes, they were easily keeping their sugar levels to recommended levels.

The patients who had surgery were also less likely to have heart problems, a common side-effect of uncontrolled diabetes, and reported improved quality of life.

Prof Rubino added: “Treating surgically, rather than medical therapy, appears more cost-effective, as there is less use of medication.”

The results were better two years after surgery. However, some patients relapsed in the past three years.

The surgeons say there still needs to be continual monitoring of blood sugar levels even after the operation.

Drs Dimitri Pournaras and Carel le Roux, from Imperial College London, said diabetes was “the plague of the 21st Century” and that the results were “remarkable”.

They added: “Surgery for diabetes seems to be safe, effective in terms of glycaemic sugar control, and is now associated with reduced complications of diabetes. The ultimate question is whether diabetes surgery is associated with reduced mortality.”

However they said surgery needed to “become more available because only a few patients who will benefit are currently offered this potentially life-saving option”.

New rules in the UK have been introduced that should increase the number of patients being offered weight loss surgery.

Sugar worse than salt debate

Salt or sugar – experts debate the health risks claiming avoiding sugar could be more important than avoiding salt when it comes to your heart.

Sugar worse than salt debate

US scientists say people need to place a greater focus on cutting sugar intake and suggest the benefits of lowering salt levels are “debatable.”

Their arguments are published in the journal Open Heart.

But other researchers have said the claims are “disingenuous” and “scientifically unnecessary”. They maintain both need to be reduced.

Researchers from St Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute, and Montefiore Medical Centre in the USA reviewed a selection of evidence from basic science experiments, animal studies and human research.

They came to the conclusion that sugar – particularly fructose – may play a stronger role in high blood pressure and other cardiac conditions than salt.

And they say lowering salt consumption under certain levels may do more harm than good.

The research team suggests attempts to reduce salt in processed food may drive people to eat more.

But Prof Francessco Cappuccio, at the University of Warwick, said: “The emphasis on reducing sugar and not salt is disingenuous.

“Both should be targeted at population level for an effective approach to cardiovascular prevention.

“The shift in attention from salt to sugar is scientifically unnecessary and unsupported.”

The US experts focus on a particular type of sugar – added fructose – often found in processed foods and sugary beverages.

But they say naturally occurring sugars in whole foods, for example those in fruit and vegetables, are not a cause for concern.

Data from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey in England suggests most adults and children eat more sugar than recommended.

The World Health Organization recommends sugars should make up less than 10% of total energy intake per day – this works out at about a maximum of 50g (1.7oz) of sugar for the average adult.

But the global health body recently acknowledged that halving this, to 5% of total energy intake per day, would have additional benefits.