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Call to ban energy drinks for kids

Energy drinks

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Energy drinks should be banned for children under 16, the campaign and research group Action on Sugar says.

The team surveyed the nutritional labels of 197 drinks found in supermarkets and online.

One had up to 10 teaspoons of sugar per 250ml, twice as much as others surveyed. It is thought teenagers get 30% of their sugar from soft drinks.

Health officials say government campaigns already encourage people to have fewer sugary drinks.

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Children are being deceived into drinking large cans of this stuff, thinking they are going to improve their performance”

End Quote Graham MacGregor Action on Sugar
Cutting down

Researchers from charity Action on Sugar are calling for strict limits on added sugars.

They argue that as the body can generate energy from food such as fruits, vegetables, pasta and rice, there is no need for additional sugar beyond this.

Their survey includes branded and supermarket products with words like energising, stimulation or caffeine on the product name as well as beverages found in energy drinks sections in supermarkets.

They say there is no reason the amount of sugar in energy drinks could not be reduced as some beverages had much less than those on their "worst offenders" list.

Graham MacGregor, professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary University of London and chairman of Action on Sugar, said: "Children are being deceived into drinking large cans of this stuff, thinking they are going to improve their performance at school, during sports, or even on a night out.

"In reality all they are doing is increasing their risk of developing obesity or type 2 diabetes which will have lifelong implications on their health.

"Type 2 diabetes is a leading cause of blindness, limb amputation and kidney dialysis - hardly the image of a healthy, active person."

Poster from Change4Life campaignThe Change4Life campaign: Parents are encouraged to swap sugary drinks for sugar-free options

The British Soft Drinks Association (BDSA) says: "These products are called energy drinks for a reason - they deliver a caffeine or glucose-based energy boost.

"They are now available in a variety of types, flavours and sizes, including a range of low and no-calorie options, so that consumers have a much wider choice.

"BSDA members do not promote energy drinks to children under 16 and all products are clearly labelled in compliance with EU regulations."

'Simple changes'

Dr Alison Tedstone of Public Health England said: "Energy drinks are usually high in sugar, which causes tooth decay, and also high in calories.

"Teenagers are consuming 50% more sugar than the maximum recommended amount and the biggest contribution comes from sugary drinks.

"The Change4Life Sugar Swaps campaign aims to help families cut down on their sugar intake by making simple changes like swapping sugary drinks for water, lower-fat milks or sugar-free, diet, no added sugar drinks."

Both the World Health Organization and government advisers in England have recently proposed a cut in their recommendations for daily sugar consumption.

The proposed new target of 5% of energy intake from free sugars amounts to about 25g for women (five to six teaspoons) and 35g (seven to eight teaspoons) for men, based on the average diet.

Study: Nasty stomach bug much more common than thought in US

ATLANTA (AP) — A nasty intestinal bug sickens nearly twice as many Americans each year as was previously thought, according to the largest U.S. study to look at the problem.

The germ — Clostridium difficile, or C-diff — flourishes in the gut after antibiotics kill off other bacteria and causes diarrhea. It can be severe and is blamed for about 15,000 deaths annually — mainly in the elderly.

For years, it's been perceived as a growing problem, and health officials have made it a focus in campaign to reduce infections picked up in the hospital.

More from the new study, which was led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and published in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine:

THE FINDINGS

In 2011, at least 453,000 Americans got sick from C-diff, the researchers estimated. The number probably would be more like 600,000 if the most sophisticated tests had been used in every case. Researchers previously had put the number of annual cases at around 250,000.

The new study cast a wider net than earlier research, which focused more on illnesses that happened in hospitals. It used information from labs in selected counties in 10 states.

THE BREAKDOWN

C-diff is found in the colon and can cause diarrhea and a more serious intestinal condition known as colitis. It is spread by spores in feces. The spores are difficult to kill with most conventional household cleaners or alcohol-based hand sanitizers.

Like earlier studies, the new research suggests that about two-thirds of C-diff cases occur in hospitals or nursing homes or in recently discharged patients. The other third are mostly people out in the community who got sick and saw a doctor. C-diff is treated with antibiotics.

SOME GOOD NEWS?

Just as officials are getting a better handle on the size of the problem, there are signs that things may be getting better. Many hospitals and other health care facilities have been stepping up efforts to more thoroughly clean rooms to prevent C-diff from spreading to other patients. There also have been programs to use antibiotics more sparingly.

In a report last month, the CDC found a 10 percent decrease from 2011 to 2013 in C-diff illnesses that started in the hospital. "We are seeing some declines, and that's encouraging," said Dr. L. Clifford McDonald, a CDC researcher who co-authored the paper.

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Online:

Journal: http://www.nejm.org

Hospital staff 'told of Savile abuse'

One of Jimmy Savile's victims said nurses told her to ignore him

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A report into sexual abuse by Jimmy Savile at Stoke Mandeville Hospital is to say staff were told of 10 complaints at the time, the BBC understands.

The independent investigation into Savile's behaviour at the hospital is due to be published at 09:30 GMT.

Lawyer Liz Dux, representing 44 claimants of abuse at the hospital, said it would be a "disgrace" if senior management escaped blame.

Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust says it will respond later.

Savile, who died aged 84 in October 2011, was a major fund-raiser and regular visitor to Stoke Mandeville for more than 20 years. He had a flat and office on the hospital site.

'Disgusting'

The Stoke Mandeville inquiry was led by independent investigator Dr Androulla Johnstone and overseen by a local oversight panel led by the hospital trust's non-executive director, Keith Gilchrist.

The report was originally expected to have been completed by the end of 2013 but has been repeatedly delayed. Investigations into 28 other hospitals, including Leeds General Infirmary and Broadmoor psychiatric hospital, were published last June.

Jimmy Savile bedroom at Stoke Mandeville HospitalJimmy Savile was given a bedroom in a building used to accommodate young medical students

One of the complaints of abuse is believed to have been made to a nurse, a ward sister and a hospital manager.

Nine reports were made to nurses alone, with one more also reaching a manager, the report is believed to say.

It will also highlight that more than 50 people were abused by Jimmy Savile at Stoke Mandeville Hospital. Victims included patients, staff and visitors. One victim is understood to have been as young as eight.

The BBC has spoken to one victim, who has not been named to protect her identity.

She was 18 and a patient at the time. She said Savile climbed through the window by her bed before sexually assaulting her.

She said: "It was absolutely disgusting, it's just the worst thing possible."

She said Savile seemed to know all about her reason for being at Stoke Mandeville: "I told the nurses what Savile had done, the fact that he came in and had spoken to me. How did he know these things about me? They just said they know he's like that and 'ignore him, ignore him'. They thought it was funny, really.

"I thought he'd just done that to me, I thought that was something I was just going to have to live with. I had no idea he was doing things to other people."

Lawyer Ms Dux of Slater & Gordon, who represents the majority of the victims, said: "As an institution, Stoke Mandeville, in my opinion, is actually the most blameworthy for Savile's crimes. We have very young vulnerable people there, who were there in a place to be looked after, some of whom couldn't move, some of them were in wheelchairs.

"We even have a clear example of someone reporting the abuse to a senior nursing sister and being told to be quiet because of what he did for the institution."

"It will be a disgrace if the report into Stoke Mandeville reaches the same findings as it did in Leeds - that there was no accountability or knowledge within the senior management of the hospital."

Investigators found that members of staff at Leeds General Hospital failed to pass on complaints of abuse to senior managers.

The BBC understands the report will also say Savile's reputation as a 'sex pest' was an open secret. Staff described him as 'creepy' and 'a lecher' who had access to the mortuary alone, out of hours.

Jimmy Savile Norman FowlerJimmy Savile's fund-raising efforts were supported by the Department of Health

Stoke Mandeville's former director of nursing, Chris McFarlane, said reports of abuse by Savile "never reached senior management ears".

She said Savile was free to go anywhere in the hospital: "If 0% was no access and 100% was total access, Jimmy had 100% access to the hospital, to all parts.

"If he knocked on a closed door and somebody opened the door, Jimmy would be allowed in. I don't believe I ever knew anybody, even the ones who thought there was something funny about him, anybody who would have said 'you're not allowed in here.'

"How could we have allowed him to sit with our patients in the spinal unit, some of whom were tetraplegic, so paralysed from the neck down, others from the chest or waist down, sit with them, without anybody bothering to ask what he was doing?"

Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust said it would not provide any comment before the report was published.

Call for study to settle if anesthesia poses risk to babies

WASHINGTON (AP) — Studies of baby animals have long suggested that going under anesthesia can have some harmful effects on a developing brain. Now some scientists want to find out whether those same drugs may pose subtle risks for human babies and toddlers.

It's a balancing act: Doctors don't want to unnecessarily frighten parents whose tots need general anesthesia for crucial surgery. There's no clear evidence of side effects, such as learning or attention impairment, in youngsters.

Wednesday, an anesthesia research group, partnered with the Food and Drug Administration, said it's time for a large study of children younger than 3 to settle the question.

Meanwhile, "surgeons, anesthesiologists and parents should consider carefully how urgently surgery is needed, particularly in children under 3 years of age," concluded a report in The New England Journal of Medicine co-authored by the FDA's current and former anesthesia chiefs along with doctors in the SmartTots research partnership.

Already, in the vast majority of cases, children that young only undergo surgery if it is medically necessary, not elective. Some operations, such as to correct birth defects, have better outcomes at earlier ages, surgeons recently told the FDA.

"Millions of kids safely undergo anesthesia," stressed SmartTots co-author Dr. Beverley Orser, a professor of anesthesia at the University of Toronto.

Those drugs have been used for decades so any big risk would have been spotted by now, she said. But with animal studies raising the possibility of subtle effects on behavior or learning, "we have to sort this out," Orser added.

At issue are drugs used for general anesthesia and sedation, not local anesthetics. Questions began years ago when experiments in newborn rats showed such drugs could kill certain brain cells. The FDA formed a partnership with the International Anesthesia Research Society, called SmartTots, to better study the issue. In 2012, SmartTots, the FDA and the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a public caution about the uncertainty.

Wednesday's report says studies in a range of species, including baby monkeys, have found similar neurotoxic effects. Do they have lasting consequences? In some cases, the animals showed later impairments in memory and attention. Importantly, the cumulative dose mattered.

That doesn't automatically translate to risk for humans. A few studies have tracked youngsters who underwent anesthesia earlier in life. Some haven't found problems, but one found those who received anesthesia multiple times had a higher risk of learning disabilities. Yet those kinds of studies can't tell if any problem was due to a drug, the stress of surgery or the original medical condition, Orser noted.

The proposed next step: A large, multihospital study that would assign youngsters now undergoing surgery to different kinds of anesthesia, and compare their outcomes.

What's the message for parents? Occasionally, some ask about this issue, and doctors must help them weigh an unknown risk with the fact that "your child needs to have surgery, and they do need an anesthetic," said Dr. Allison Kinder Ross, chief of pediatric anesthesia at Duke University Medical Center, who wasn't involved with Wednesday's report.

But anesthesia is used with some nonsurgical procedures, too, such as to keep tots still during MRI scans — and Ross said that's an area to try alternatives. For example, Duke has had parents or nurses crawl inside scanners to hold a child.

"Under 3 is certainly more challenging, but it's doable for a lot of kids," Ross said.

Last June, SmartTots convened doctors' groups to update its earlier cautionary statement, and a draft now being considered suggests postponing surgeries or other medical procedures "that could reasonably be delayed" in children under 3. It's not clear whether that language will be adopted.

Three US tobacco companies to settle 400 smoking lawsuits

Three major US tobacco companies -- Philip Morris, RJ Reynolds and Lorillard -- have agreed to pay $100 million to settle more than 400 lawsuits claiming that smoking damaged people's health.

A judge awarded a combined $100 million to the plaintiffs in the lawsuits filed in Florida by smokers or their families, seeking damages for injuries caused by smoking.

As part of the settlement, Philip Morris USA, maker of Marlboro cigarettes; RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company; and Lorillard Tobacco Company will collectively pay $100 million to the plaintiffs, one of the law firms representing them said in a statement Wednesday.

"We are very pleased that after many years of litigation, the parties were able to reach agreement. This settlement will provide immediate compensation to our clients, many of whom are very elderly," said attorney Robert Nelson, of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, who helped negotiate the deal.

Under the terms of the agreement, Altria unit Philip Morris USA, the largest US tobacco company, and RJ Reynolds, the second-largest, will each pay $42.5 million to resolve the federal cases. Lorillard will pay $15 million.

The settlement only involves cases that are pending in federal court, the law firm noted, not cases filed in state court. The tentative agreement is subject to the approval of all the plaintiffs.

The settled cases are part of the so-called Engle cases, a Florida class-action lawsuit filed against the cigarette companies in 1994. They were also part of a 2006 Florida Supreme Court decision to decertify the class action, saying the $145 billion in punitive damages to the entire group was "excessive."

However, the top court opened the door to individual lawsuits, and allowed the findings to stand in the case, including that smoking cigarettes harmed health and the tobacco companies had knowingly concealed the health effects of cigarettes or their addictive nature.

"Today's agreement is in the best interest of the company," said Murray Garnick, senior vice president and associate general counsel at Altria, in a separate statement.

"As for the Engle progeny cases in state court, we will continue to defend ourselves vigorously, including appealing adverse verdicts."

In afternoon trade on Wall Street, Altria was up 0.2 percent, RJ Reynolds slipped 0.1 percent and Lorillard was flat.

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