5 Reasons Millennials Should Destroy The Concept Of Marriage

When you are young and free, the summer is a time to be off school, travel, and lament that you aren’t beach-body ready. But once you get a bit older, summer means one thing: Wedding season. Just, so many goddamn weddings. Whether it’s traveling to a destination wedding, sitting through an hour-long mass, or just hanging out in someone’s backyard, you are expected to be there, smile, and bring a gravy boat for the happy couple that will undoubtedly never be used.

But … what if we just got rid of the institution all together? Don’t worry, I’m not some bitter spinster, I’ve been happily married for ten years. But bear with me here, because for millennials, it might make more sense to just stop getting married once and for all. Here’s why.

5

Society Is Failing At It

Let’s say you’re in high school and you really, really suck at math. You never get better than a D on any of your tests. But you decide you want to study math in college. Then you want to go on and get a master’s degree, and even a PhD. Everyone around you is trying to talk you out of it: your friends, your parents, your creepy guidance counselor that keeps touching your knee. But you are insistent. How crazy would that be? Now pretend math is actually marriage. Because society is totally failing at it, yet we keep trying to make it work.

The divorce rate in America is estimated to be between 40 and 50 percent. For millennials, it might end up being even worse thanks to all the divorces our parents went through. If your parents got divorced, you are up to 60 percent more likely to get divorced yourself. It’s called “intergenerational transmission of divorce,” and it means that your parents pass on divorce to their kids just like they do other terrible things like heart disease or ginger hair.

Then there are the infamous “starter marriages.” These are marriages between people in their 20s that usually last less than five years and don’t involve children. The problem with these is that getting divorced once means you will probably divorce again. 67 percent of second marriages and 73 percent of third marriages end in divorce. A recent survey of millennials found that 43 percent of them would like a starter marriage that could be either “renewed” or easily dissolved after two years. 36 percent thought that marriage licenses should be treated like mortgages, on fixed year terms that have to be “renegotiated” once they run out. If this is how we really think marriage should be approached, why have it at all? Why not just live together for as long as you want, and if you break up there is no legal aspect involved?

4

It Fixes Some Legal Issues With Other Types of Relationships

Remember way back in the hot summer of 2015, when it seemed like Obama would be president forever and gay people finally got the right to get married? It was the end of a decades-long slog toward equality, and there was every chance it wouldn’t happen. Until the decision was released, people still thought the five conservative judges might block marriage equality. Fortunately, one of them flipped. But it is easy to forget just how long and hard the fight was, and how close it came to not happening.

Within hours of the decision, think pieces appeared on the “next logical step”: legalizing polygamy. Now, we’re not talking about weird old guys in cults forcing dozens of underage girls to marry them. This is about three or more consenting adults who want to be, for lack of a better word, a couple. Is there really anything wrong with that? If there is anyone out there who loves to cook and clean and maybe knows how to fix cars, I would gladly welcome you into my marriage. In 2015, only 16 percent of people found polygamy “morally acceptable” but that was more than double the 7 percent who thought so in 2001. But it will be another long hill to climb before any case on polygamy gets to the Supreme Court. The simplest way to fix this? Take the legal aspect of marriage out of the picture entirely.

This will work for millennials as well, who are more likely to be in polyamorous relationships than any other group. According to one poll, only 51 percent of people under 30 say that their perfect relationship would be completely monogamous. This is compared to the 70 percent of people over 65 who only want to bump uglies with one person at a time. If we get rid of marriage, millennials can form lasting relationships with any number of people and have them all be equally important.

3

It Ends The Wedding-Industrial Complex

You can’t spend an hour online without finding some millennial talking about the unfairness of student debt. And they’re right, it sucks to start adulthood with negative money if panhandling wasn’t your dream in life. Now that you’ve graduated, you’re right in the sweet spot, age wise, for marriage. Time to bust out the calculator.

According to a survey of 13,000 brides and grooms who got married in 2016, the average American wedding now costs over $35,000. That doesn’t even include costs like the engagement ring, the honeymoon, and the interest you will be paying for years. And sure, some people’s parents pay for their big day, but not everyone is that lucky, which is why a full one-third of couples go into debt to pay for their wedding.

That is worse than it sounds. Money is the biggest cause of stress in a marriage. According to a study of 4,500 couples, money arguments last longer and are more intense than fights over anything else. And if you fight about money issues early on in your marriage, the same study shows you are more likely to end up divorced. One older study found that 10 percent of people broke up mainly because of financial problems, and a whopping 57 percent said it was a primary cause of their divorce. Suddenly that $35,000 party you put on your credit cards isn’t looking like such a brilliant idea.

Look, I get it. Women especially are conditioned to want the big day. I used to buy wedding magazines with my friends and have fun imagining. If you are madly in love with someone you want to show everyone just how huge your love is by proving it with an even bigger wedding. But why do we need to prove anything? If you love someone and are a happy, functional couple, you are proving how committed you are to everyone already. We don’t need weddings to do that. You don’t need to put yourself at the risk of divorce if you never spend the money and never even get married. You can still stay together as long as you want, and have an even better chance of lasting if you don’t start off with money issues and fights about whether or not you invite your fiance’s racist uncle.

2

We’re Already Putting It Off Longer Than Ever

Marriage ages for millennials is already higher than any other generation. These days the average woman gets married at 26.5 and the average man at 29. But that is just the average. In some places, as many as 81 percent of young people are single.

And this might not change much according to one study. The researchers determined that unless marriage rates changed drastically in the near future, up to one-third of millennials will never get married. And those that do find it less important than other generations. Gone is the time where you had to be married to live with someone, or even have a kid with them.

Millennials are putting off marriage for lots of reasons. Some have no money to pay for a wedding (see the wedding-industrial complex above.) Some want to be able to own a house. Others want to live with a partner for a few years first. That might all sound fine, but there are dangers if marriage is still your final goal. Living with someone prior to getting hitched makes you 8 percent more likely to get divorced than people who don’t. And if you put off marriage for too long the same thing happens. Your risk of divorce rises by 5 percent for every year you wait after 32. You know how to avoid divorce? Don’t get married. If we are putting it off for so long already, and so many people will end up single anyway, why not just end the institution once and for all?

1

It Might Be The Natural Way

Thanks to Marilyn Monroe everyone knows about the supposed seven-year itch. But surely that was just made up for a movie, right? No way does everyone want to cheat on their spouses after being tied down for less than a decade.

Wrong. It just takes even less time than seven years. One study looked at animals and found that many of them are serial monogamists. They stay with one partner just long enough to have and raise their children, and then once they fly the nest (in some cases literally) they move on to another mate. Then the same researcher looked at humans and found that in more primitive societies, the same thing often happens. Once a child is four, and is weaned and old enough to be looked after by older siblings or grandparents, the parents move on and find new partners. Biologically, this is a good thing, since having children with different genetic makeups means at least one is likely to be healthy enough to make it to adulthood.

And our biological urge to split up after four years carries over into more advanced civilizations. The study found that four years is peak divorce time for couples. Something about that time makes us want to run off and find a heartier mate. So why tie ourselves down for life when our biology might be telling us to end things much, much sooner? We could take the idea of the starter marriage, get rid of the legal aspect, and expand it throughout our lives. You could find one person to party with in your twenties, then someone more responsible to have kids with, and finally someone fun and financially stable to enjoy your retirement with. It won’t be slutty if we all start doing it.

When you think about it, no other area of life expects you to stay in it forever. Friendships come and go, as do jobs. Why are we expected to legally bind ourselves to one person for life? No one should have to smell the same person’s farts for that long.

Kathy wrote a very funny book called FUNERALS TO DIE FOR and you can buy it here. Or follow her on Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, and Twitter.

Read more: http://www.cracked.com/blog/5-legitimate-reasons-that-marriage-should-be-abolished/

Reflections Of Research: British Heart Foundations Photo Competition Reveals Science Can Be Stunning

If there’s one way to capture the public’s attention and showcase the incredible work being done by people in a particular field, it’s through breathtaking photography. And just because it’s scientific research done on a cellular level doesn’t mean it can’t be truly breathtaking.

The British Heart Foundation’s Reflections on Research competition has been running since 2005, showcasing the groundbreaking research it funds through exciting and often beautiful photographs.

This year was no different, with images of a heart-shaped blood clot, the inside of a blood vessel, and a fibroblast that looks like a comet all vying for the number one spot.

The images are impressive to look at, but it’s important to remember that they are more than just a pretty picture. Their real value is in highlighting the vital work helping us to understand heart disease that the people behind the camera do every day.

The judge’s winner, “Getting to the heart of the problem” by Fraser Macrae of the University of Leeds (above), shows a red blood cell compressed into a heart shape by the fibrin fibers, which hold clots together, contracting around it. Macrae is studying blood clot structure and how the fibers adapt to clot-busting drugs. 

“I was amazed when I saw the blood cell which by chance had been squeezed into a heart shape,” Macrae told the Daily Mail. “As someone who is investigating aspects of heart disease, it seemed to be very symbolic.”

The supporter’s favorite – as voted by the Foundation’s online followers – was “An artery’s insides” by Dr Matthew Lee of the University of Strathclyde (below) revealing the innermost layer of blood vessels on an incredible scale.

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“An artery’s insides”  –  Dr Matthew Lee, University of Strathclyde. BHF

“This image tells a story of how science and art can come together to help advance our knowledge of modern medicine,” judge and royal photographer at Getty Images, Christopher Jackson, said. “At the same time, images like this give us the opportunity to appreciate the incredible beauty in something that is invisible to the human eye.”

Check out the rest of the incredible shortlisted photographs here.

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“Cellular comet” – Dr Marcela Rosas, Cardiff University. BHF

 

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“Heart of hearts” – Dr Sean Davidson, UCL. BHF

 

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“An inflammatory storm” – Dr Tamara Gibri, QMUL. BHF

 

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“Butterfly in a cell” – Dr Nicoletta Surdo, University of Oxford. BHF

 

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“Zebrafish motorways” – Dr Yujie Yang, University of Edinburgh. BHF

 

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/reflections-of-research-british-heart-foundations-photo-competition-reveals-science-can-be-stunning/

Exercise Changes The Way Our Bodies Work At A Molecular Level

Exercise is good for you, this we know. It helps build muscle, burn fat and make us all into happier, healthier people. But long before you start looking the way you want, there are other hidden, more immediate, molecular and immunological changes taking place inside your cells. Changes which could be responsible for protecting us from heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and even stave off old age and cancer. The Conversation

You may think that molecular changes may not be that much of a big deal. Surely it is fat loss and muscle gain that are the best outcomes of exercise? Actually molecular changes affect the way genes and proteins are controlled inside cells. Genes can become more or less active, while proteins can be rapidly modified to function differently and carry out tasks such as moving glucose into cells more efficiently, or protect cells from harmful toxins.

Type 2 diabetes causes all kinds of health problems, including cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, blindness, kidney failure and nerve damage, and may lead to limb amputation. The underlying cause is the development of a heightened inflammatory state in the bodys tissue and cells. This damages cells and can eventually lead to insulin resistance and, ultimately, type 2 diabetes.

The main risk factors for type 2 diabetes include obesity, a poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle. However, we have found that even low intensity exercise, such as brisk walking, can increase the bodys insulin sensitivity. This means that people at risk of developing diabetes become less prone because they are able to metabolise glucose more efficiently.

In our study, we asked 20 sedentary people who were at risk of developing diabetes to walk briskly for 45 minutes, three times a week, for eight weeks. Although there was no change in their weight, blood pressure or cholesterol level, on average each participant lost a significant six centimetres from their waist circumference. And, more importantly, there was a reduction in their diabetic risk.

Immune system benefits

Interestingly, there were also exercise-induced changes in the participants monocytes an important immune cell that circulates in the bloodstream. This led to a reduction in the bodys inflammatory state, one of the main risks for type 2 diabetes.

When our body is under attack from foreign invaders such as microbes, immune cells such as monocytes change into microbe-eating macrophages. Their main function is to fight infection in our tissues and lungs. There are two main types of macrophages, M1 and M2. M1 macrophages are associated with pro-inflammatory responses and are necessary for aggressively fighting off infections. However, in obese people who do not exercise, these cells become active even in the absence of infection. This can lead to an unwanted, heightened inflammatory condition which may trigger diabetes.

On the other hand, M2 macrophages play a role in switching-off inflammation and are instrumental in damping-down the more aggressive M1s. So a healthy balance of M1 and M2 macrophages is crucial to maintain an optimal immune response for fighting infections and it may help prevent the heightened inflammatory condition which comes from lack of exercise and obesity too.

Macrophages fight off infectious microbes that infiltrate the body. sciencepics/Shutterstock

Other studies have also shown that exercise has a beneficial impact on tissues immune cell function and can reduce unnecessary inflammation. Exercise training in obese individuals has been found to reduce the level of tissue inflammation specifically because there are less macrophage cells present in fat tissue.

In addition, researchers have found a significant link between exercise and the balance of M1 and M2 macrophages. It has been shown that acute exercise in obese rats resulted in a shift from the aggressive M1 macrophages to the more passive M2 and that this reduction in the inflammatory state correlated with an improvement in insulin resistance.

Time to move

There is no definitive answer as to how much and what intensity of exercise is necessary to protect us from diabetes. Though some researchers have shown that while higher-intensity exercise improves overall fitness, there is little difference between high and low-intensity exercise in improving insulin sensitivity.

However, a new study has found that all forms of aerobic exercise in particular high-intensity interval training such as cycling and running can effectively stop ageing at the cellular level. The exercise caused cells to make more proteins for their energy-producing mitochondria and their protein-building ribosomes. Researchers also observed that these molecular changes occurring at the gene and protein levels happened very quickly after exercise and that the effects prevented damage to important proteins in the cells and improve the way in which insulin functions.

Although you might not see the changes you want immediately, even gentle exercise can make a big difference to the way the bodys cells behave. This means that exercise could have far-reaching health benefits for other inflammatory associated diseases and possibly protect us against ageing and cancer too.

Andrew Thomas, Principal Lecturer, Cardiff Metropolitan University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/exercise-changes-the-way-our-bodies-work-at-a-molecular-level/

A Starbucks barista gave a note to a deaf man and became a shining example of service.

A man goes in for a coffee and comes out with a double shot of human compassion.

When Ibby Piracha, a deaf man from Leesburg, Virginia, headed into his regular Starbucks location last week, he wasn’t expecting a random act of empathy.

But then the barista pulled a surprise move. She handed him a note and then asked him in sign language what he wanted to drink.

Piracha told thelocal ABC news affiliatehe was moved that she was motivated to dedicate herself to learning American Sign Language (ASL).

“She actually wanted to learn a different language….Sign language is really a totally different language and it was something that she wanted to do because of me? Because I was a deaf customer? I was very, very impressed.”

Just how many people are missing out on easy transactions because of a hearing impairment?

According to the Gallaudet Research Institute’s calculationsfrom 2005, “anywhere from 9 to 22 out of every 1,000 people have a severe hearing impairment or are deaf.”

And HearingLoss.org reports that “hearing loss is a major public health issue that is the third most common physical condition after arthritis and heart disease.”

What would happen if more agencies, businesses, and online media outlets provided services for those who speak ASL, or provided transcripts for the deaf and hard of hearing?

The world might just be a little more inclusive, making Ibby Piracha and other deaf citizens like him feel just a little bit more at home.

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/a-starbucks-barista-gave-a-note-to-a-deaf-man-and-became-a-shining-example-of-service?c=tpstream

These 10 Remarkable Body Features Are Very Rareand Fascinating

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Read more: http://twentytwowords.com/these-10-remarkable-body-features-are-very-rare-and-fascinating/

Type 2 diabetes rise in children ‘disturbing’ – BBC News

Image copyright Getty Images

More than 600 children and teenagers are being treated for type 2 diabetes in England and Wales, and the rise in cases is a “hugely disturbing trend”, local councils are warning.

The figures come from a report by child health experts which found 110 more cases among under-19s in 2015-16 than two years previously.

The youngest children affected are aged between five and nine.

Council leaders said urgent action on childhood obesity was needed.

The Local Government Association, which represents councils in England and Wales, added that government cuts to public health budgets had affected their ability to tackle the issue.


Why are children getting type 2 diabetes?

Being overweight is the biggest risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes, and three-quarters of these children were obese.

With child obesity rates in England rising – but now by a smaller amount than they have been – it’s no surprise more children are being treated for the condition.

In primary schools in England, one in 10 children in Reception and one in five children in year 6 were classified as obese in 2015-16.

Type 2 diabetes in children is a serious condition which can lead to long-term health complications such as heart disease, kidney failure and blindness.


Who are they?

Children from Asian and black ethnic backgrounds were particularly affected, and children who lived in deprived areas were more likely to have type 2.

There were twice as many girls than boys with the condition and most of the cases were among 15-19 year olds.

Across all children and teenagers, numbers are on the rise – from 507 cases in 2013-14 and 543 in 2014-15 to the current tally of 621.

But there could be more who are undiagnosed, the report said – these are only the ones being treated by paediatric specialists around the country.


What should parents do?

Parents can make an appointment with their family GP if they are concerned about their child’s weight.

They can then be referred to a paediatrician, weight loss services or a dietician, depending on what is available in the area.

When children are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, the whole family will normally be involved in encouraging more physical exercise and a healthier diet, which are crucial to managing the condition.

Because type 2 diabetes can be more aggressive in children than in adults, it is important to manage the condition carefully in order to prevent any health problems occurring.


What do experts say?

Children’s doctors, from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, say type 2 diabetes is preventable in most cases and more action is need to reverse the trend.

Dr Justin Warner, from RCPCH, said the sugar tax was “a positive step” towards reducing sugar in diets, but the government should be doing more to ban junk food adverts on TV targeted at children.

Diabetes UK said there should be moves to reduce the sugar and saturated fat content in food.

Libby Dowling, senior clinical adviser at the charity, said: “We need to make it as easy as possible for children and their families to lead healthy lives and reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and its serious complications.”


What is the government’s plan?

It published a childhood obesity plan a year ago, which included measures asking the food and drink industry to cut 5% of the sugar in products popular with children, with a target of 20% over four years.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said this was already delivering results.

The plan also called on primary schools to deliver at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day and to help parents and carers ensure children got the same amount at home.

But local councils in England, which now fund public health, want an increased budget to tackle the problem.

They say more needs to be done to reach out to black and other minority ethnic groups, where a disproportionately high number of children and teenagers have type 2 diabetes.

Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-40900269

New Research Shows Body Shaming Actually Happens At The Doctor’s Office

It’s no secret that unrealistic body standards are deeply embedded in our society, and in recent years, the negative effects of body and fat shaming have become more prevalent topics in the cultural discourse. But now, new research shows microaggressions aren’t just happening in everyday life body shaming has apparently founds its way into many doctor’s offices.

Just to clarifywhat body shaming actually is, it’s an umbrella term for criticism and micro-aggressive attitudes toward bodies that might deviate from what’s considered normative.

It can take shape in anything from straight-up hateful rhetorictoward someone’s physicality, to encouraging a person to change their appearance, to subtly suggesting a person’s size influences their well-being.

The shaming practices that occur in media, our interpersonal lives, and in the online realm seem to be acknowledged more frequently these days, as many inspirational bloggers have made it their mission to drive the message home that all bodies are beautiful.


But recent research illustrates the damaging presence of body shaming in medical settings which, up until now, has hardly received the same amount of attention.

The research, which was presented atthe 125th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association,found that individuals treated with a bias against their size have consequently seen negative impacts in their health, and they are generally less likely to seek the treatmentthey need to be healthy.

Joan Chrisler, Ph.D., and Angela Barney, M.A., wroteof their findings in the research abstract,

Sizeism and stereotypes of fat people can have a negative impact on their physical health and well-being. Disrespectful treatment and medical fat shaming (in an attempt to motivate people to change their behavior) is stressful and can cause patients to delay health care seeking or avoid interacting with providers.

The assumption that weight is responsible for, or related to, almost any presenting complaint has resulted in misdiagnosis.

Recommending different treatments for patients with the same condition based on their weight (e.g., weight loss for fat patients; CAT scan, blood work, or physical therapy for other patients) is unethical and a form of malpractice.


The researchers recommend greater and more extensive training for medical providersto learn practices that encourage patient empowerment.

This isespecially importantbecause these damaging effects can have an even greater cumulative impact on those withintersectional identities people who very often experience other forms of oppression in addition to sizeism (like racism and transphobia, for example).

Furthermore,a study from earlier this year at University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine researched the relationship between the metabolic conditions of 156 adults with obesity, and what these participants internalized about their bodies.

The findings were at once revelatory, and unfortunately, not all that surprising the way people felt about themselves because of what they believed about their bodies had an impact on both their physical and mental well-being.

The participants who held more negative beliefs about themselves in relation to their weight had a higher propensity for metabolic syndrome, and were at a much greater risk for developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Hopefully this research can begin to pave the way toward fairer, healthier, and more empowering practices for all bodies.

Read more: http://elitedaily.com/wellness/new-research-shows-body-shaming-actually-happens-doctors-office/2037249/

Your sleep habits could be causing you to gain weight

People who dont get the recommended amount of sleep each night are more likely to be overweight and have larger waistlines, according to a new study published in PLOS ONE. But what the study didnt find was the real surprise: The results showed no relationship between poor sleep and a less healthy diet. In other words, skimping on shuteye may fuel weight gain, even if its not fueling a penchant for sugary or fatty foods.

The study involved 1,615 adults in the United Kingdom who were surveyed about their sleep patterns and their normal diets. They also gave blood samples and had their weight, waist circumference, blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and thyroid function measured. The researchers wanted to see if how long they slept per night would affect these common health measures.

RELATED: 10 PRODUCTS THAT MAY HELP YOU SLEEP

For several of these outcomes, that was indeed the case. For example, people who scored about 5.9 hours of sleep a night had an average waist circumference of 37.4 inches and an average BMI of 28.6, while those who averaged 8.4 hours a night had an average waist circumference of 35.8 inches and an average BMI of 27.1.

After the results were adjusting for age, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and smoking status, each additional hour of sleep per night was associated with a 0.3-inch reduction in waist circumference and a nearly half a point decrease in BMI.

Shorter sleep was also associated with lower levels of HDL good cholesterol. HDL cholesterol is thought to be protective against cardiovascular disease (although recent research has questioned this) and low levels are considered a risk factor for heart problems, especially among young people.

The relationship between sleep duration and other health issues was less clear. Although the data suggested that short sleep was linked to higher blood sugar and inflammation and lower thyroid function, these findings were not statistically significant.

The study also didnt find a significant link between sleep duration and diet quality, which surprised the researchers. Other studies have suggested that poor sleep can cause people to crave high-fat and high-sugar foods, and it might reduce willpower, so it’s harder to stick to that pledge to stick to salads and lean protein. In a 2016 study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people who slept five and a half hours or less per night consumed an average of 385 extra calories per day than those who slept seven hours or more.

Co-author Greg Potter, PhD, a researcher at the University of Leeds, says its possible the study didnt have enough people to detect subtle relationships between sleep duration and diet. Its also possible that people did not accurately report their food choices, he says. Because the participants were only surveyed at one point in time, he adds, the study offers only a snapshot, and it cannot determine how changes in sleep patterns may affect diet changes.

But if the studys findings are accurateand diet really isnt a significant factor in the sleep-weight relationshipthen there must be another culprit. Although the researchers cant be sure, they suspect that people who sleep less may have slower metabolisms. A few (not all) previous experiments have found that if you reduce how long people sleep, some people burn slightly fewer calories at rest, Potter told Health via email.

But regardless of how sleep and weight are linked, Potter says the study supports the idea that sleeping seven to nine hours a nightthe amount recommended by the National Sleep Foundationis not just good for overall health, but good for weight management, as well. Our findings suggest that people sleeping in this seven to nine hour range are less likely to be overweight than those sleeping less, he says.

RELATED: BEST AND WORST FOODS FOR SLEEP

Exactly how much sleep a person needs within that range varies, Potter adds. He recommends that people find a sleep pattern that allows them to wake up naturally in the morning. If you are regularly waking to an alarm, then you may not be getting as much sleep as you need to optimize your health, he says.

Potter says the study draws an important connection between the rising obesity ratewhich has more than doubled worldwide between 1980 and 2014and the fact that many people report sleeping less today than they used to. The message we hope that people take away is that prioritizing getting enough sleep may be an important part of minimizing your risk for obesity and the health problems associated with it, he says, as is true of consuming a balanced diet and being physically active.

This article originally appeared on Health

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/lifestyle/2017/08/01/your-sleep-habits-could-be-causing-to-gain-weight.html

Threats, bullying, lawsuits: tobacco industry’s dirty war for the African market

Revealed: In pursuit of growth in Africa, British American Tobacco and others use intimidatory tactics to attempt to suppress health warnings and regulation

British American Tobacco (BAT) and other multinational tobacco firms have threatened governments in at least eight countries in Africa demanding they axe or dilute the kind of protections that have saved millions of lives in the west, a Guardian investigation has found.

BAT, one of the worlds leading cigarette manufacturers, is fighting through the courts to try to block the Kenyan and Ugandan governments attempts to bring in regulations to limit the harm caused by smoking. The giant tobacco firms hope to boost their markets in Africa, which has a fast-growing young and increasingly prosperous population.

In one undisclosed court document in Kenya, seen by the Guardian, BATs lawyers demand the countrys high court quash in its entirety a package of anti-smoking regulations and rails against what it calls a capricious tax plan. The case is now before the supreme court after BAT Kenya lost in the high court and the appeal court. A ruling is expected as early as next month.

Tobacco: a deadly business

BAT in Uganda asserts in another document that the governments Tobacco Control Act is inconsistent with and in contravention of the constitution.

The Guardian has also seen letters, including three by BAT, sent to the governments of Uganda, Namibia, Togo, Gabon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia and Burkina Faso revealing the intimidatory tactics that tobacco companies are using, accusing governments of breaching their own laws and international trade agreements and warning of damage to the economy.

BAT denies it is opposed to all tobacco regulation, but says it reserves the right to ask the courts to intervene where it believes regulations may not comply with the law.

Later this month, BAT is expected to become the worlds biggest listed tobacco firm as it completes its acquisition of the large US tobacco company Reynolds in a $49bn deal, and there are fears over the extent to which big tobacco can financially outmuscle health ministries in poorer nations. A vote on the deal by shareholders of both firms is due to take place next Wednesday, simultaneously in London at BAT and North Carolina at Reynolds.

Professor Peter Odhiambo, a former heart surgeon who is head of the governments Tobacco Control Board in Kenya, told the Guardian: BAT has done as much as they can to block us.

Experts say Africa and southern Asia are urgent new battlegrounds in the global fight against smoking because of demographics and rising prosperity. Despite declining smoking and more controls in some richer countries, it still kills more than seven million people globally every year, according to the WHO, and there are fears the tactics of big tobacco will effectively succeed in exporting the death and harm to poorer nations.

There are an estimated 77 million smokers in Africa and those numbers are predicted to rise by nearly 40% from 2010 levels by 2030, which is the largest projected such increase in the world.

In Kenya, BAT has succeeded in delaying regulations to restrict the promotion and sale of cigarettes for 15 years, fighting through every level of the legal system. In February it launched a case in the supreme court that has already halted the imposition of tobacco controls until probably after the countrys general election in August, which are being contested by parliamentarians who have been linked to payments by the multinational company.

In Uganda, BAT launched legal action against the government in November, arguing that the Tobacco Control Act, which became law in 2015, contravenes the constitution. It is fighting restrictions that are now commonplace in richer countries, including the expansion of health warnings on packets and point-of-sale displays, arguing that they unfairly restrict its trade.

The court actions are brought by BATs local affiliates, BAT Kenya and BAT Uganda, but approved at Globe House, the London headquarters of the multinational, which receives most of the profits from the African trade. In its 2016 annual report, BAT outlined the risk that unreasonable litigation would be brought in to control tobacco around the world. Its response was an engagement and litigation strategy coordinated and aligned across the Group.

Focus on emerging markets

British
British packets of cigarettes, with stark warnings, beside packs from Africa. Photograph: Linda Nylind for the Guardian

At its annual meeting in March, chairman Richard Burrows toasted a vintage year for BAT, as profits rose 4% to 5.2bn after investors took their cut their dividend had increased by 10%. When asked about the legal actions in Africa, he said tobacco was an industry that should be regulated … but we want to see that regulation is serving the correct interests of the health mission and human mission which should lie behind it.

So, from time to time its necessary for us to take legal action to challenge new regulation which he said was led by the local board.

BAT says it is simply not true that we oppose all tobacco regulation, particularly in developing countries. Tobacco should be appropriately regulated as a product that has risks to health, it said, but where there are different interpretations of whether regulations comply with the law, we think it is entirely reasonable to ask the courts to assist in resolving it. It was opposed to only a handful of the issues in Kenyas regulations, not the entirety, it said in a statement.

Although most countries in Africa have signed the World Health Organisation (WHO) treaty on tobacco control, none has yet fully implemented the smoking restrictions it endorses.

The WHO predicts that by 2025, smoking rates will go up in 17 of the 30 Africa-region countries from their 2010 level. In some countries a massive hike is expected in Congo-Brazzaville, from 13.9% to nearly half the population (47.1%) and in Cameroon from 13.7% to 42.7%. In Sierra Leone it will be 41.2% (74% among men) and in Lesotho 36.9%.

The tobacco industrys march on Africa

In contrast, research showed last year that just 16.9% of adults smoke in the UK; and last month new figures showed UK heart disease deaths had fallen 20% since that countrys indoor smoking ban.

The tobacco industry is now turning its focus toward emerging markets in sub-Saharan Africa, seeking to exploit the continents patchwork tobacco control regulations and limited resources to combat industry marketing advances, said Dr Emmanuela Gakidou and colleagues at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle, publishing an analysis of smoking prevalence around the world in the Lancet in April.

Africas growing numbers of children and young people, and its increasing wealth, represent a huge future market for the tobacco industry. The companies deny targeting children and cannot sell packs smaller than 10, but a new study carried out in Nairobi by the Johns Hopkins school of public health in the US and the Kenya-based Consumer Information Network found vendors selling cigarettes along the routes children take to walk to primary schools.

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Stalls sell single Dunhill, Embassy, Safari and other BAT cigarette sticks, costing around 4p (5 cents) each, alongside sweets, biscuits and fizzy drinks. The vendors split the packets of 20 manufactured by BAT. They are targeting children, said Samuel Ochieng, chief executive of the Consumer Information Network. They mix cigarettes with candies and sell along the school paths.

BAT said that its products were for adult smokers only and that it would much prefer that stalls sold whole packets rather than single sticks, given our investment in the brands and the fact there are clear health warnings on the packs.

Across the world, we have very strict rules regarding not selling our products to retailers located near schools. BAT Kenya provides support to many of these independent vendors, including providing stalls painted in non-corporate colours, and providing youth smoking prevention and health warnings messages. We also educate vendors to ensure they do not sell tobacco products near schools.

Links with politicians

Cigarettes
Cigarettes on sale (alongside sweets) in Nairobi, Kenya. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

The Kenya case, expected to be heard after the elections on 8 August, is seen as critical for the continent. If the government loses, other countries will have less appetite for the long and expensive fight against the wealthy tobacco industry.

BAT has around 70% of the Kenyan market; its Kenyan competitor, Mastermind, has joined in the legal action against the government.

Concerns have been raised about links between politicians and the tobacco companies. There are allegations of some of them having been bribed in the past, said Joel Gitali, chief executive of the Kenya Tobacco Control Alliance.

BAT whistleblower Paul Hopkins, who worked in Africa for BAT for 13 years, told a British newspaper he paid bribes on the companys behalf to the Kenya Revenue Authority for access to information BAT could use against its Kenyan competitor, Mastermind. Hopkins has also alleged links between certain prominent opposition Kenyan politicians and two tobacco companies, BAT Kenya and Mastermind. Hopkins, who says he alerted BAT to the documents before the company made him redundant, claimed BAT Kenya paid bribes to government officials in Burundi, Rwanda and the Comoros Islands to undermine tobacco control regulations. Gitali is concerned about the outcome of the election: If the opposition takes over government we shall be deeply in the hands of the tobacco companies.

BAT denies any wrongdoing. A spokesperson said: We will not tolerate improper conduct in our business anywhere in the world and take any allegations of misconduct extremely seriously. We are investigating, through external legal advisors, allegations of misconduct and are liaising with the Serious Fraud Office and other relevant authorities.

We grow up dreaming we can be one of them

The
The headquarters and factory of British American Tobacco in Nairobi, Kenya. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

Tih Ntiabang, regional coordinator for Africa of the Framework Convention Alliance NGOs that support the WHO treaty said the tobacco companies had become bolder. In the past it used to be invisible interference, but today it is so shameful that it is so visible and they are openly opposing public health treaties like the case in Kenya at the moment Today they boldly go to court to oppose public health policy. Every single government is highly interested in economic growth. They [the tobacco companies] know they have this economic power. The budget of tobacco companies like BAT could be as much as the whole budget of the Africa region.

Our health systems are not really well organised. Our policy makers cant see clearly what are the health costs of inaction on tobacco control because our health system is not very good. It puts the tobacco industry at an advantage on public health.

The sale across the whole of Africa of single cigarette sticks was a serious problem because it enabled children to buy them. They are extremely affordable. Young teenagers are able to purchase a cigarette. You dont need 1 for a pack of 20, he said.

There are fears the number of deaths and illnesses in Africa from tobacco could rise dramatically

BAT has a reputation in Africa as an employer offering steady and well-paid jobs, said Ntiabang, based in Cameroon. When I was about 10, I was always dreaming I could work for BAT. They have always painted themselves as a responsible company a dream company to work for. All the staff are well-off. The young people think I want to work for BAT. They promote a lot of events and make their name appear to young people. We grow up dreaming we can be one of them.

In Uganda in 2014, BAT managing director, Jonathan DSouza, sent a 13-page detailed attack on the tobacco control bill, then going through parliament, to the chair of the governments health committee.

BAT was contracting with 18,000 farmers and paid them 61bn Ugandan shillings for 16.8m kg of tobacco in 2013, said the letter. The economy has benefited significantly from BAT Ugandas investments, it said. This has helped to alleviate poverty and improve welfare in urban and rural areas, it says.

BAT Uganda (BATU) agreed tobacco should be regulated while respecting the informed choices and rights of adults who choose to smoke and the legal rights of a legal industry. But it cited 11 areas of concern, claiming there is no evidence to support a ban on tobacco displays in shops, that large graphic health warnings on packs are ineffective, that proposals on bans on smoking in public places were too broad and that prohibiting smoking under the age of 21 was unreasonable, since at 18 young people are adults and can make up their own mind.

Documents made public by the University of Bath show that BATU had another concern: the ban on the sale of cheap single cigarettes. Adults should be free to purchase what they can afford, says an internal leaked paper. BATU also took action against the MP who sponsored the bill. A letter informed him that the company would no longer be contracting with the 709 tobacco farmers in his region. There is evidence that the company also lobbied other MPs with tobacco farmers in their constituencies.

The Tobacco Control Act became law in 2015, and in November last year, BAT sued. Many people choose to smoke, said an affidavit to the court from managing director Dadson Mwaura and it was important to ensure regulation did not lead to unintended consequences that risk an untaxed and unrestrained illegitimate trade in tobacco products. BATUs legal product contributed to the Ugandan economy in many dimensions.

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A vendor in Nairobis Uhuru Park sells single stick cigarettes. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

The Guardian has seen letters showing that at least six other African governments have faced challenges from the multinational tobacco companies over their attempts to control smoking.

  • Democratic Republic of Congo: Letter to the president sent in April 2017 by the Fdration des Entreprises du Congo (chamber of commerce) on behalf of the tobacco industry, listing 29 concerns with the proposed tobacco control regulations, which they claim violate the constitution, international agreements and domestic law.
  • Burkina Faso: Letter sent in January 2016 to the minister of health from Imperial Tobacco, warning that restrictions on labeling and packaging cigarettes risks economic and social damage to the country. Previous letter sent to the prime minister from the US Chambers of Commerce in December 2013 warning that large health warnings and plain packaging could put Burkina Faso in breach of its obligations to the World Trade Organisation.
  • Ethiopia: Letter sent in February 2015 to the ministers of health and science and technology by Philip Morris International, claiming that the governments tobacco directive banning trademarks, brands and added ingredients to tobacco breached existing laws and would penalise all consumer retailers.
  • Togo: Letter to the minister of commerce in June 2012 from Philip Morris International opposing plain packaging, which risks having damaging consequences on Togos economy and business environment.
  • Gabon: Letter from BAT arguing that there is no evidence that plain packaging reduces smoking, citing the Deloitte report of 2011, alleging its introduction would put Gabon in breach of trade agreements and promote smuggling.
  • Namibia: Letter to the minister of health from BAT, warning that planned tobacco controls will have a massive impact on the Namibian economy at large.

Bintou Camara, director of Africa programs at Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said: British American Tobacco, Philip Morris International and other multinational tobacco companies have set their sights on Africa as a growth market for their deadly products. Throughout Africa, tobacco companies have tried to intimidate countries from taking effective action to reduce tobacco use, the worlds leading cause of preventable death, he added.

Governments in Africa should know that they can and should move forward with measures aimed at preventing and reducing tobacco use and that they do so with the support of the many governments and leaders around the world that have taken strong action to protect public health.

Cloe Franko, senior international organizer at Corporate Accountability International, said: In Kenya, as in other parts of the world, the industry has resorted to frivolous litigation, aggressive interference … to thwart, block, and delay lifesaving policies. BATs actions are emblematic of a desperate industry grasping to maintain its hold over countries and continue to peddle its deadly product.

Philip Morris said it is regularly engaged in discussions with governments. We are approached by or approach public authorities to discuss a range of issues that are important for them and for us, such as taxation, international trade, and tobacco control policies. Participating in discussions and sharing points of view is a basic principle of public policy making and does not stop governments from taking decisions and enacting the laws they deem best. It said that it supports effective regulation, including laws banning sales to minors, mandatory health warnings, and advertising restrictions.

Imperial Tobacco said it sold its brands where theres a legitimate and existing demand for tobacco and take the same responsible approach in Africa as we do in any Western territory. A spokesman said it supported reasonable, proportionate and evidence-based regulation of tobacco, including health warnings that are consistent with global public health messages. But, it said, Imperial would continue to make our views known on excessive, unnecessary and often counter-productive regulatory proposals.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/12/big-tobacco-dirty-war-africa-market

Coconut oil: are the health benefits a big fat lie?

Its the latest superfood, endorsed by wellness bloggers and celebrities, yet contains more saturated fat than lard

It wasnt that long ago that the closest most Britons got to a coconut was at the fairground or on the inside of a Bounty bar. Yet in the past three years, this hard, hairy drupe (thats the official term) of the coconut palm tree has emerged as the latest superfood extolled by celebrities and health food shops for its nutritional, healing and mind-enhancing powers.

Aisles of health food shops are packed with bags of flour, snacks, milk, sugar and drinks made from its meat and milk. And leading the way is coconut oil, a sweet smelling, greasy fat used for frying, baking, spreading on toast, adding to coffee or simply rubbing into your skin.

Its hard to exaggerate how much hype surrounds coconut oil on health food websites, blogs and YouTube channels. Wellness Mama lists 101 uses including as a mental stimulant, hair conditioner and treatment for insomnia, heartburn, cuts, acne, haemorrhoids, mosquito bites and sunburn. Everdine recommends using coconut oil to cook with at every meal due, while Holland & Barrett claims coconut oil is very healthy, adding: Coconut oil is the little black dress of wellbeing everyone should have some!

Sites such as these, along with celebrity endorsements from the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow and Kourtney Kardashian, have helped UK sales of coconut oil rise over the past four years from around 1m to 16.4m last year, according to consumer research group Kantar.

When it comes to superfoods, coconut oil presses all the buttons: its natural, its enticingly exotic, its surrounded by health claims and at up to 8 for a 500ml pot at Tesco, its suitably pricey. But where this latest superfood differs from benign rivals such as blueberries, goji berries, kale and avocado is that a diet rich in coconut oil may actually be bad for us.

Earlier this month, the American Heart Association (AHA) warned that coconut oil contains the same level of saturated fat as beef dripping. In fact, its so oozing with artery-clogging saturated fat that lard is a healthieroption.

The AHA alert, which has followed similar observations from scientists over the years, has triggered an online battle between those who claim the science of coconut oil is more complex and more sophisticated than food scientists acknowledge and those who say food faddists have been duped by clever marketing.

So who is right? Even if coconut oil really is full of saturated fats, are all saturated fats bad? And why do we get such conflicting messages about the fat in our diet?

Coconut oil is pressed from the meat of a coconut. It has been used in Africa, Asia and South America for centuries and was routinely used in American processed food in the middle part of the 20th century. In the 1940s, it was the main source of non-dairy fat in the US diet until it was replaced by vegetable oils, particularly soya bean oil. Concerns about its high saturated fat content emerged in the middle of the last century and are rife today, even as the oil makes a revival among health foodlovers.

Priya Tew, spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association, says: Coconut oil is a high saturated fat. Its about 92% saturated fat so more than lard or butter. If a woman has two tablespoons, she is eating 20g of saturated fat, her recommended dailyamount.

In the long-established pecking order of fats laid down over many years by public health officials, trans fats are classed as the least healthy. The chemical transformation makes them hard for our bodies to process. They raise levels of bad (LDL) cholesterol and lower good (HDL) cholesterol, increasing the risk of developing heart disease and strokes; they are also linked to type 2 diabetes. In contrast, unsaturated fats are pretty universally accepted as beneficial because they raise levels of good HDL cholesterol. That leaves saturated fats somewhere in the middle.

Since the 1970s, the message from public health bodies has been that they raise bad cholesterol, fur up arteries and increase the risk of strokes, heart disease and heart attacks. Thats the view of the UK government, the World Health Organisation and virtually every other public health body in the world. So where does the idea of coconut oil, one of the richest sources of saturated fat available, being a health food come from?

One branch of evidence often cited by the pro-coconut oil lobby is work done by Dr Marie-Pierre St-Onge, associate professor of nutritional medicine at Cornell University Medical School, in the early 2000s. Her team was looking at the impact on health of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), a form of fat molecule that has shorter chains of fatty acid than most and which is found in coconut oil in higher concentrations than any other natural food.

In 2003, her team published research comparing the effects of diets rich in MCTs or long-chain triglycerides (LCTs) on 24 overweight men. She found that eating more MCTs over the month-long study led to losing an extra pound in weight compared with those eating a similar amount of LCTs. Further studies had similar findings. In 2008, she showed that a diet containing MCTs led to more weight loss than a similar diet containing olive oil.

It was a fascinating result and a reminder that not all saturated fats are the same. And it was leapt upon by coconut oil supporters. Holland & Barretts website, for instance, claims that the majority of fat in coconut oil is made up of MCTs. But the link from these studies to coconut oil was arguably a leap too far. Recent studies suggest that coconut oil actually comprises just 13-15% MCTs. The rest are traditional LCTs.

From what I can tell, my research is being used to say that coconut oil is healthy, but this is a very liberal extrapolation of what weve actually studied, says Dr St-Onge.

In her tests, volunteers were given a concoction made from 100% MCTs.

We dont know if the amount in coconut oil is sufficient to have similareffects as pure MCT oil in releasing energy expenditure and improving satiety and weight management. From recent studies, it seems that it is not.

Coconut
Coconut flesh, to be made into oil, drying in Papeete, French Polynesia. Photograph: Gregory Boissy/AFP/Getty Images

If theres little evidence that coconut oil is less fattening than other saturated fats, what about another often made claim that it lowers levels of harmful cholesterol? Some studies appear to show that people who eat more coconut in their diets have higher levels of HDL cholesterol the healthy version linked to lower rates of strokes and heart disease. One reason for this cholesterol boost is likely to be the high level of a substance called lauric acid in coconut oil. A meta-analysis of 60 trials in 2003 found lauric acid increased good HDLcholesterol.

But before you are tempted to celebrate by smearing some coconut oil on toast, theres a caveat. The same analysis found it also raised harmful LDL cholesterol. And theres little evidence that the rise in good cholesterol from eating coconut oil outweighs the rise in the bad stuff.

There is nothing unusual about coconut oil in this respect all saturated fats raise both good HDL and bad LDL cholesterol levels. What seems to matter is the ratio of these two types of cholesterol in our blood. So while Lauric acid may raise good cholesterol, the increase could be offset by a rise in the bad stuff.

Theres an added complexity. Tew points out that not all HDL cholesterol is necessarily good. As the science of cholesterol is explored in more detail, researchers are discovering that some types of HDL are protective, while others are non-functional and do nothing for the heart. She suspects that some of the rise in good HDL associated with lauric acid may be an increase in the non-functional type of cholesterol, which, while looking good on paper, wont protect us from heart attack or stroke.

The presence of this non-functioning HDL cholesterol and the rise in bad cholesterol when we consume lauric acid could help to explain other studies that show lauric acid in our diets as being associated with an increased risk of heart disease.

Its not just the claims about weight loss and cholesterol that dont stack up. A paper in the British Nutrition Foundations Nutrition Bulletin last year concluded that there is simply not enough evidence for any health claim based on coconut oil.

Dr Stacey Lockyer and Dr Sara Stanner of the BNF wrote: Claims relating to potential health benefits ofcoconut oil are often based solely on animal or in vitro studies or humanstudies feeding one componentof coconut oil rather than the whole food.

There is, for instance, no good evidence that it helps boost mental performance or prevent Alzheimers disease, they say.

The theory is that the fat in coconut oil metabolises more quickly than other fats because of the high MCT content. The argument goes that the brain cells of people with Alzheimers disease are unable to use glucose properly and so starve. Coconut oil is an easier to use source of energy and so keeps brain cells going. Its an interesting idea, but not one based on evidence, according to the Alzheimers Society. A clinical trial into the potential impact was discontinued because there were not enough people taking part.

Coconut oil is also said to be a good source of antioxidants. Although this is true, its nowhere near as good as fruit and vegetables. Tom Sanders, emeritus professor of nutrition and dietetics at Kings College London, says: It is a poor source of vitamin E compared with other vegetable oils. Coconut oil is also deficient in the essential fatty acids, which makes it much worse than lard or palm oil.

As for its much touted antimicrobial qualities that help restore gut bacteria, theres virtually no evidence either way. For Tew, the coconut oil issue is another example of the perils of classifying some foods as superfoods. She, like most dietitians, believes its an unhelpful concept, used by marketers. Labelling products as superfoods can fool people into thinking they are eating well when they are not. Munching a handful of goji berries after fried steak and chips wont make the meal healthy.

The obsession with expensive, exotic superfoods also means we forget the easy, cheap foods that are more likely to keep us healthy apples, oranges, broccoli and milk. But if canonising foods is unhelpful, then perhaps so is demonising them. And here, public health officials may have been guilty of oversimplification and an unfair assessment of fats. In the past few years, the debate over whether fats have been wrongly turned into villains has become intense and polarised.

At one extreme are cardiologists such as Dr Aseem Malhotra, who last year told the media, during the launch of a controversial National Obesity Forum report into fat: Eat fat to get slim. Dont fear fat. Fat is yourfriend.

But even more moderate voices acknowledge that the low-fat diet health message is too crude and not always supported by the evidence. One of the best studies into saturated fats and heart disease was a Cochrane review of 15 clinical trials covering 59,000 people, which found that cutting out saturated fat and replacing it with carbs and proteins made no difference to cardiovascular disease. Yet when the saturated fats were replaced with unsaturated fats, there was a 27% drop in heart disease.

It seemed to be showing that saturated fats are no worse for us than carbs but that the real benefits come when we swap them for olive oils, nut oils and the fats in avocado.

Sanders believes not all saturated fats are the same. It is nuanced and it depends where they come from, he says. A high intake of processed and red meat is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, but dairy seems to be quite neutral. Dairy provides other things magnesium, calcium and nutrients that may counteract the effects of saturated fat.

But while not all fats are equal, Sanders, like most food scientists, remains unconvinced by the health claims for coconut oil or the suggestion that the saturated fat in coconut oil is less harmful than other saturated fats. There is, he says, insufficient evidence for such claims.

There is an incredible amount of hype around the coconut that is driven by marketing, not science, he adds.

Christine Williams, professor of human nutrition at the University of Reading, agrees.

There is very limited evidence of beneficial health effects of this oil and marketing has won out over science again, she says.

Coconut oil may be no superfood, but equally, it is no villain. What it is is a reasonable tasty if overpriced occasional alternative to other equally unhealthy saturated fats and one that, unusually, you can rub into your face without smelling like a butchers shop or cheese counter. But if youre after a miracle cure for obesity, insomnia or piles youll probably have just as much success with a Bounty bar.

David Derbyshire is a former Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph science correspondent. He has written for the Observer on acupuncture, mindfulness and the science of wine-tasting

Coconut claims debunked

According to health food websites, coconut oil can be used to treat everything from thyroid disorders to thrush, via brittle bones and dementia. But in a recent report, the British Nutrition Foundation said: There is no strong scientific evidence to support health benefits from eating coconut oil. So where has this idea come from? Coconut oil advocates believe that it has powerful antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties because it contains lauric acid, a fatty acid also found in breast milk. It is true that lauric acid derived from coconut oil acts as an antibiotic, but this has only been seen in vitro and at super-concentrated doses. So while lauric acid can kill bacteria, it seems coconut oil cant. In studies where the two have been directly compared, coconut oil was shown to be as useful as water at killing bacteria. Here are three more of the most commonly cited, scientifically dubious health uses for coconut oil to be wary of. Agnes Donnelly

Woman
Photograph: Alamy

Skin
While it is true that coconut oil is found in many sunscreens, coconut oil on its own has an SPF of around 1. The NHS recommends that when you are in the sun you should be using a sunscreen with SPF 15 at the very least. Therefore coconut oil alone is notgoing to be enoughto protect your skin from the suns UV rays, a major cause of skin cancer.

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Photograph: Alamy

Hair
Coconut oil is believed to moisturise, provide nutrients, kill bacteria and improve circulation of blood in the scalp. Some websites even promote it as a way to slow hair loss. In truth, coconut oil contains tiny amounts of nutrients and its antibacterial properties are unproved. Any effect it has on your hair is purely cosmetic.

Woman
Photograph: Alamy

Health
Pulling is a practice where people swill liquid oil around their mouths for up to 30 minutes because they believe it draws harmful bacteria and toxins out of their mouth. There is no evidence that this works. However, there have been cases of lipoid pneumonia, when the oil is accidentally inhaled into the lungs and causes disease.

Know your fats

Dietary fat can be divided into two camps the solid, mostly animal-derived saturated fats such as lard, dripping and butter and the liquid, unsaturated fats such as olive oil and nut oil, mostly derived from plants.

We are so used to bandying around words such as saturated and trans fat that many of us (or at least those of us without a chemistry A-level) rarely consider what the words mean.

Whether a fat is saturated or unsaturated depends on the way that carbon atoms in the long chains of fatty acids found in fat molecules are connected to one another.

In an unsaturated fat molecule, one or more carbon atoms are linked by double bonds. If the circumstances are right, one of these bonds can loosen and connect to a passing hydrogen atom, adding another hydrogen atom to the molecule. However, in a saturated fat such as lard, all the carbon atoms are held together with single bonds. There is no spare capacity for the fat molecule to take on any more hydrogen atoms and so the fatty acid is said to be saturated with hydrogen.

The ability of unsaturated fats to take on hydrogen atoms is exploited when vegetable oils are hydrogenated converted into solid trans fats by exposing them to hydrogen gas and a catalyst. Trans fats are cheaper than normal saturated fats, more suitable for industrial scale baking and have a longer shelf life.

A fat is monounsaturated if it contains just one double bond among its carbon atoms. If it has many double bonds, it is polyunsaturated.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/jul/09/coconut-oil-debunked-health-benefits-big-fat-lie-superfood-saturated-fats-lard