Monday, January 10, 2011

Australian consumer group slams "nutrient" drinks

CHOICE is stepping up the campaign against vitamin water drinks, describing them as "expensive lolly waters" with hyperventilated health claims". Some contain a third of a woman's recommended daily sugar intake in one 500ml bottle.

The consumer advocate CHOICE first complained to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in 2008 that Coca Cola Amatil's Glaceau Vitamin Water made a mockery of food labeling laws, but the complaint was rejected. Since that time the market has been flooded with similar products such as Nutrient Water and Smart Water.

CHOICE spokeswoman Ingrid Just said Nutrient Water claimed its Cranberry Grapefruit Multi-Vitamin Water drink offered the same benefits as eight hours sleep, a bowl of steamed greens and pre-dawn power walks.

She said it was time to "get tough on potentially misleading promotions and labelling", such as 'nature approved ingredients' and 'natural flavours', "which mean nothing". "This type of labelling creates the impression that the drinks can be used as a safety net for a poor lifestyle when grabbing an apple and a glass of water will provide you with far more nutrients for a fraction of the cost," she said.

A spokesman for the ACCC would "neither confirm nor deny whether any investigations are underway". However recent actions include labeling changes for Sanitarium breakfast cereals and National Foods juices.

The ACCC was concerned that Berri Australian Fresh "Daily Juice" packaging suggested that it only contained juice that was recently squeezed, when in fact the products within this range may contain either fresh juice or a blend of fresh juice and aseptically stored juice. Sanitarium packaging suggested certain breakfast cereals contained more fruit than was actually the case.

CHOICE has called for the ACCC to take another look at the way vitamin waters are marketed. "These drinks are leading consumers up an imaginary garden path to health and vitality," Ms Just said. "Treat them like any other sugary or artificial drink; enjoy occasionally, not as a means to any kind of wellbeing whatever the label or pretty pictures might suggest."


Prozac 'gives movement back to stroke victims left paralysed'

Taking the antidepressant Prozac may help restore movement in stroke victims and reduce paralysis, according to the largest study of its kind. The drug may aid recovery after a stroke whether patients are depressed or not, researchers found.

They said the beneficial effect of selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs), the class of drug that includes Prozac, is independent of the effect on depression, a common response to having a stroke. The pills boost serotonin levels and other compounds in the central nervous system which, it is thought, improves nerve growth.

The study investigated the use of SSRIs in stroke after mounting evidence from smaller trials that they improve motor and cognitive functions.

At around £5 for a month's supply, Prozac's cheapness could lead to its widepread use in this area, the researchers added. The team from the University Hospital of Toulouse looked at 118 patients five to ten days after a stroke. Half were given 20mg of Prozac, while the others got a dummy pill. All patients, who had moderate to severe movement problems, also received physiotherapy.

Greater improvements in motor function were found after three months in patients on Prozac, with a 50 per cent increase in scores used to measure recovery, said a report published online in The Lancet Neurology. Importantly, this gain was significant for both the upper and lower limbs, as paralysis and weakness on one side of the body are the most common disabilities left after a stroke. Depression was significantly less common in patients on Prozac, suggesting it could prevent the condition if given early after a stroke, said lead researcher Professor Francois Chollet. He added: `The positive effect of the drug on motor function of recovering patients suggests that the action of SSRIs provides a new pathway that could be explored further in the treatment of acute ischaemic stroke.'

In the same journal, Robert Robinson and Harold Adams from the University of Iowa said the findings raised the question of whether `most patients with motor impairments after stroke should be treated with SSRIs'. But they added that more studies were needed.

Around 150,000 people a year in the UK have a stroke, of whom a third are left with a disability such as paralysis down one side of their body.


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