Saturday, January 08, 2011

British Food shoppers face five-a-day nagging at tills as government aims to get the nation in shape

The fact that "5 a day" has no basis in science seems not to worry them

Shoppers will be bombarded with messages at supermarket check-outs about eating fruit and vegetables, under plans being considered by Ministers. Trolleys could even come with a painted line marking where customers should put their healthy produce as part of the proposals which critics will see as an expansion of the nanny state.

Unhealthy options – such as crisps and pies – may be placed on higher shelves than low-calorie and high-fibre foods to dissuade shoppers from buying them. The proposals are part of the Coalition’s attempt to ‘nudge’ Britons towards healthy choices and are the brainchild of the Behavioural Insight Team, which is promoting similar persuasion tactics across government.

A team led by Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Letwin is working with supermarkets to persuade them to support the plans to promote ‘five-a-day’ diets, which have already been tested at Asda.

Other ‘nudge’ ideas include giving children Topshop vouchers and cinema tickets if they walk to school – an idea condemned by opponents as a bribe. And, in an effort to tackle teenage pregnancy, girls could be given toddlers to look after for short periods to persuade them to have safe sex.

A document from the Behavioural Insight Team, released last week, revealed the plan for supermarkets. It said: ‘Visual prompts are already widely used by supermarkets and food manufacturers. 'But there is potential for visual prompts to be introduced in more ways that help people make healthier food choices. ‘Examples include experimenting with the design of trolleys and considering the order or height of healthier options on supermarket shelves.’

It said action needs to be taken because the country’s weight problem, with six out of ten adults overweight, costs the economy £7billion a year.


MA: New blood test that spots cancer cells gets boost

A blood test so sensitive that it can spot a single cancer cell lurking among a billion healthy ones is moving one step closer to being available at your doctor's office. Boston scientists who invented the test and health care giant Johnson & Johnson will announce Monday that they are joining forces to bring it to market. Four big cancer centers also will start studies using the experimental test this year.

Stray cancer cells in the blood mean that a tumor has spread or is likely to, many doctors believe. A test that can capture such cells has the potential to transform care for many types of cancer, especially breast, prostate, colon and lung.

Initially, doctors want to use the test to try to predict what treatments would be best for each patient's tumor and find out quickly if they are working. "This is like a liquid biopsy" that avoids painful tissue sampling and may give a better way to monitor patients than periodic imaging scans, said Dr. Daniel Haber, chief of Massachusetts General Hospital's cancer center and one of the test's inventors.

Ultimately, the test may offer a way to screen for cancer besides the mammograms, colonoscopies and other less-than-ideal methods used now. "There's a lot of potential here, and that's why there's a lot of excitement," said Dr. Mark Kris, lung-cancer chief at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. He had no role in developing the test, but Sloan-Kettering is one of the sites that will study it this year.

Doctors typically give a drug or radiation treatment and then do a CT scan two months later to look for tumor shrinkage. Some patients only live long enough to try one or two treatments, so a test that can gauge success sooner, by looking at cancer cells in the blood, could give patients more options. "If you could find out quickly, 'this drug is working, stay on it,' or 'this drug is not working, try something else,' that would be huge," Haber said.

The only test on the market now to find tumor cells in blood - CellSearch, made by J&J's Veridex unit - just gives a cell count.

Interest in trying to collect these cells soared in 2007, after Haber and his colleagues published a study of Mass General's test. It is far more powerful than CellSearch and traps cells intact. It requires only a couple of teaspoons of blood and can be done repeatedly to monitor treatment or determine why a drug has stopped working and what to try next.

"That's what got the scientific community's interest," Kris said. Doctors can give a drug one day and sample blood the next day to see if the circulating tumor cells are gone, he explained.


No comments: