Thursday, September 22, 2011

Exposed: The health drinks that don't live up to the hype

Comment from Britain

Claims that health drinks help slimming, boost digestion and lubricate joints have been rejected by consumer experts.

Britons spend more than £700million a year on ‘functional’ drinks and food. But research by Which?, published today, suggests that using these products to treat ailments is often a waste of money.

The consumer group said the slimming drink Aspire claims ‘you can burn over 200 calories a can’. The firm’s website boasts that Aspire, which contains several stimulants, ‘raises your body’s metabolism and suppresses appetite’.

Which? tracked down research which found that those who drank it did indeed burn off an average of 209 calories over a three-hour period. But this was only 27 calories more than someone who had consumed a drink making no calorie-burning claims. Twenty-seven calories is the equivalent of one bite of a chocolate digestive biscuit. Aspire costs £1.69 for 250ml.

The consumer group was also critical of NeuroTrim, a drink which promises weight loss support. Ingredients include a fibre gel the company calls LuraLean. In August, the Advertising Standards Authority ruled that a website claim that the drink was ‘designed to promote weight loss’ was misleading.

The orange cordial ActivJuice for Joints, which costs £7.39 for 500ml, contains glucosamine. It claims this will ‘help maintain healthy joints, bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments’. But Which? pointed to a finding by the European Food Safety Authority, which has decided there is ‘not enough evidence’ to back up such claims.

A host of probiotic yoghurt drinks, such as Actimel and Yakult, have in the past made claims that they can help boost digestion and the beneficial bacteria that exist in the gut. But Which? said the EFSA has rejected general claims linking prebiotics and probiotics to improved digestive health. The brands have submitted new evidence to justify their claims, but have had to change their marketing claims in the meantime.

Which? said that some health drinks do offer genuine benefits, particularly those designed to reduce cholesterol levels.


Brittle bone drug offers new hope that it could hold arthritis at bay

Rodent evidence only so far

A drug used to strengthen brittle bones could help to hold arthritis at bay. There is currently no cure for arthritis – which causes inflammation of the joints and bones –and treatments are aimed at simply easing the pain it causes.

However, the osteoporosis drug teriparatide thickened damaged knee joints by almost a third in laboratory tests. This has raised hopes it could also be used to treat osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis.

It is caused by the breakdown of cartilage that helps our joints take the strain of bending, lifting, gripping and kneeling, and affects about six million Britons.

Existing drugs simply ease pain of bone rubbing on bone. They do nothing to slow the course of the condition and some raise the odds of heart attacks and strokes.

Hip or knee replacement surgery can improve quality of life in patients but it is a complicated and lengthy process and is not successful in every case. In addition, the artificial joints usually only last for ten to 15 years, meaning some patients have to be operated on over and over again.

In the study, teriparatide was given daily to mice with arthritic knees. After a month, cartilage in the knee joints of the treated mice was 32 per cent thicker than in other animals, the journal Science Translational Medicine reports. In addition, the production of genes and molecules associated with the degeneration of cartilage was suppressed.

The research raises hopes the drug could eventually be used to combat arthritis in humans.

The scientists, from the University of Rochester Medical Centre in New York State, compared the health of arthritis patients who were taking teriparatide for osteoporosis, with that of another group who weren’t taking the drug. Those taking teriparatide, which has the brand name Forsteo in Europe and Forteo in the U.S., said they found it easier to move the damaged joint.

The researchers said that further studies, including proper trials of those with arthritis, could lead to the drug being approved to treat arthritis as well as osteoporosis.

Osteoarthritis is more common in women than in men and usually occurs in the over-50s, although it can also affect younger people. The condition mostly occurs in the knees, hips and hands.However, almost any joint can become stiff, swollen and painful.

Study co-author Dr Michael Zuscik said: ‘We believe that a potential alternative to this cycle of pain and reduced quality of life has gone unnoticed for the past decade.’

The safety of long-term use of the drug would also have to be assessed. Concerns that it raises the odds of bone cancer mean that use in osteoporosis is limited to two years in total.

Professor Phil Conaghan, of Arthritis Research UK, said: ‘We welcome anything that helps to treat osteoarthritis and that reduces the pain and suffering of the six million people in the UK that are affected by this debilitating condition.

‘However, we need to sound a big note of caution, as animal models of osteoarthritis are not like humans with osteoarthritis, and many agents that have worked and looked very promising in animals have not worked in human trials.’


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