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The Bitter Aftertaste of UK’s new Sugar Tax

“From Friday (6 April 2018), millions of children across the UK will benefit from the government’s key milestone in tackling childhood obesity, as the Soft Drinks Industry Levy comes into effect.” Or, will they?

Childhood obesity is one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century. Overweight and obese children are likely to stay obese into adulthood and more likely to develop noncommunicable diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases at a younger age.

According to estimates from Public Health England, two thirds of adults and a quarter of children between two and 10 years old are overweight or obese. Obese children are more likely to become overweight adults and to suffer premature ill health and mortality, and by 2034, 70 per cent of adults are expected to be overweight or obese.

The fundamental causes behind the rising levels of childhood obesity are a shift in diet towards increased intake of energy-dense foods that are high in fat and sugars but low in vitamins, minerals and other healthy micronutrients. Choosing healthy foods for infants and young children is critical because food preferences are established in early life.

One of the UK Governments interventions to tackle obesity has been the introduction of the “sugar tax”, adding up to 24p per liter on sugary drinks. Not surprisingly, this has resulted in a sharp increase of artificial sweeteners in soft drinks as sugar replacement.

Although artificial sweeteners have been considered safe, accumulating evidence indicates that they can induce glucose intolerance and disturb energy levels in the human body. In particular, the gut microbiome has been demonstrated to play a role in these processes. In a study from 2017 Acesulfame-K increased the abundance of Bacteroides bacteria in the gut microbiome which is associated with obesity and indeed resulted in a significantly higher body weight.

Toxic products generated by gut bacteria can enter systemic circulation and induce chronic inflammation. The above study found that Acesulfame-K may increased the risk of developing systemic chronic inflammation.

Another study from 2015 reviewed the nutritional benefits and risks related to intense sweeteners [IS]- analyzing 10,989 scientific papers. It found that – contrary to claims that use of artificial sweeteners leads to weight loss, “no conclusion can be drawn as to the long-term effect of replacing caloric sweeteners with IS on the weight of regular adult consumers of sweet products.” It further found that “most of the prospective observational studies undertaken in children show that IS use is paradoxically associated with weight gain.”

“Some studies … suggested that aspartame consumption may be involved in triggering epileptic seizures and migraines.”

Sucralose [e.g. Splenda, E955, Canderel Yellow] was found to be mutagenic at elevated concentrations. Cooking with sucralose at high temperatures was reported to generate a potentially toxic class of compounds. It alters the microbial composition in the gastrointestinal tract (GIT), with relatively greater reduction in beneficial bacteria.

The artificial sweetener aspartame remains one of the most controversial food additives. A study found that people who consumed high-aspartame diets, had more irritable mood, exhibited more depression, and performed worse on spatial orientation tests.  Chronic use of aspartame was found to cause liver injury, depletion of Glutathione (GSH) [an important antioxidant] and to trigger the blockade of an important detoxification pathway [trans-sulphuration pathway].

Diabetic neuropathy is one of the three major complications of Diabetes mellitus (DM). . The artificial sweetener Sorbitol was found in a study from 2015 to damage Schwann cells which regulate peripheral nerve function, which can make the neuropathy worse.

Instead of loading foods with unhealthy artificial sweeteners, and as one of the study rightly states “for the general population, the overall assessment of potential risks and benefits does not justify the long-term use of IS as sugar substitutes, particularly in beverages” we should skip the artificially-sweetened and sugar-sweetened frankenfoods and replace them with natural foods and – when it comes to drinks – water.

Dr Oliver Frey MD MRCGP

Health & Wellbeing



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What a Bonfire does to your Lungs

Setting large piles of stuff aflame can have significant environmental and human health impacts

Open burning of any kind is generally bad for humans and the nearby environment. Compared to controlled burning, such as in boilers, large outdoor fires tend to produce “highly mutagenic and carcinogenic emissions” that can affect any humans hanging out in the vicinity. (Mutagenic chemicals, as the name suggests, are those that tend to cause genetic mutations.) The fine particles in smoke, meanwhile, can find their way into eyes and lungs and cause bronchitis, as well as aggravate existing conditions like heart and lung disease

Temperature matters. If the fire is hot enough, many of the toxic molecules will break down into simpler, less toxic ones. But open fires rarely reach those temperatures, meaning toxic molecules are released as a gas that can easily find its way into lungs and the environment. As opposed to high-temperature incinerators, bonfires also tend to produce more carbon monoxide, which is harmful when breathed in and can form toxic ozone.

From an environmental perspective, the smoke from any bonfire—including normal ones built with wood or paper—adds particulates and carbon to the atmosphere. These can act not only as air pollutants, but also as “climate forcers,” meaning they can contribute to climate change in the short or long term—albeit on a much smaller scale than industry or automobiles do. Particulate pollution can lead to lung and nose irritation, and possibly even lung cancer if exposure is severe and prolonged, according to the Centers for Disease Control

Ash from bonfires can also easily run off into rivers and lakes, introducing chemicals and possibly altering the pH of the watershed. This could cause the widespread of fish and other animals living in or near the watershed.

Burning most kinds of plastics or metals is a quick path to creating adverse health effects because of their inherently toxic molecules.

Some of the worst items to burn in terms of toxic emissions include manmade chemicals like Teflon or many plastics, used motor oil and rubber such as that found in tires. On the more natural side of things, burning poison ivy can be very harmful to people allergic to it.

Warning from Asthma UK: Bonfires could cause potentially fatal asthma attacks

The smoke fumes from burning wood can linger in the air creating localised pollution, which could cause asthma attacks for the 5.4million people in the UK with the condition, says Asthma UK. Two thirds of people with asthma say poor air quality makes their symptoms worse.

The charity advises that the smoke from bonfires could be ‘deadly’.

Are you concerned about your personal lung cancer risk? The EarlyCDT®-Lung Test  can help to assess your personal risk.

Dr Oliver Frey, MD MRCGP

IoD Ambassador Health & Wellbeing

Source: Smithsonian magazine 

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Low magnesium associated with coronary artery calcification

Studies suggested an association between low serum magnesium levels and metabolic or cardiovascular disease and several studies have shown that low serum magnesium is associated with vascular calcification.

A study analysed 34,553 participants as part of a health examination program in a Korean population at low risk for cardiovascular disease. Low serum magnesium was associated with coronary artery calcification (CAC) after adjustment for age, sex, BMI, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, systolic BP, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, eGFR, serum calcium and phosphorus, high-sensitive CRP, current smoking status, alcohol intake and vigorous exercise frequency.

Our recommendation:

A lack of magnesium is also linked to constipation and muscle cramps.

We recommend to take 400 mg Magnesium daily, ideally as a Magnesium Citrate as this is well absorbed. The upper safety limit for an adult is 1600 mg daily. Too much magnesium can lead to loose stools.


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Could Cataracts be reversed?

There is a growing population of aging patients suffering from cataracts and many are unaware of a simple solution that may reverse this eye disease.

A cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye that affects vision. Most cataracts are related to aging. Cataracts are very common in older people. By age 80, more than half of all Americans either have a cataract or have had cataract surgery.

What is the lens?

The lens is a clear part of the eye that helps to focus light, or an image, on the retina. The retina is the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye.

In a normal eye, light passes through the transparent lens to the retina. Once it reaches the retina, light is changed into nerve signals that are sent to the brain.

The lens must be clear for the retina to receive a sharp image. If the lens is cloudy from a cataract, the image you see will be blurred.

The following are all potential symptoms of cataracts.

  • Color vision becomes distorted
  • Feel like you’re looking through a cloudy piece of glass.
  • Increased sensitivity to glare, especially from oncoming headlights
  • Blurred vision
  • Need for brighter light in order to see clearly
  • Double vision when looking out of just one eye
  • More difficulty seeing in the dark
  • Vision is brighter in one eye than the other eye

Most patients will quickly resort to surgery to replace the eye lens, however, it is important to know that part of the problem may be from a simple nutrient deficiency.

Research has documented that the nutritional product carnosine (not to be confused with carnitine) has been able to prevent and sometimes even reverse cataracts.

When carnosine is acetylated, as in N-acetyl-L-carnosine, it becomes a time-release dipeptide that can move easily both into water-soluble as well as lipid-containing parts of the eye and improves DNA repair, thus bringing vision back to better levels.

You can find Can-C eye drops which contain N-Acetyl-L-carnosine HERE

In one of the studies people in their 60s suffering with cataracts for 2-21 years used drops of carnosine solution three or four times a day for a few months. Carnosine improved their sight making the lenses became more transparent or clear. Basically, it reversed the effects of cataracts!

In another study, a group of people who were told they would need cataract surgery within two years, one group received the eye drops while another group used placebo drops.

After six months, 90% of the eyes treated with N-acetyl carnosine showed improvements in visual acuity anywhere from 7-100%.

Glare sensitivity improved 27-100% in 88% of people. And there was no worsening of vision, as there should have been with time.

PS: This can also be used for your four-legged canine friend!


  • Babizhayev M, at al, Efficacy of N-acetyl-carnosine in the treatment of cataracts, Drugs Res Devel, 3;2:87-103, 2002
  • Rogers Sherry, Total Wellness, Prestige Publishing
  • Babizhayev MA, Biomarkers and special features of oxidative stress in the anterior segment of the eye linked to lens cataract and the trabecular meshwork injury in primary open-angle glaucoma: challenges of dual combination therapy with N-acetylcarnosine lubricant eye drops and oral formulation of nonhydrolyzed carnosine, Fundam Clin Pharmacol. 2012 Feb;26(1):86-117.
  • Babizhayev MA, Deyev AI, Yermakova VN, Brikman IV, Bours J, Lipid peroxidation and cataracts: N-acetyl-carnosine as a therapeutic tool to manage age-related cataracts in human and in canine eyes, Drugs R D. 2004;5(3):125-39.
  • Babizhayev MA, Micans P, Guiotto A, Kasus-Jacobi A, N-acetylcarnosine lubricant eyedrops possess all-in-one universal antioxidant protective effects of L-carnosine in aqueous and lipid membrane environments, aldehyde scavenging, and transglycation activities inherent tocataracts: a clinical study of the new vision-saving drug N-acetylcarnosine eyedrop therapy in a database population of over 50,500 patients, Am J Ther. 2009 Nov-Dec;16(6):517-33
  • Quinn PJ, et al, Carnosine: its properties, functions and potential therapeutic applications, Molec Aspects Med, 13; 5:379-444, 1992

Compliments from Functional Medicine University

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