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Letters to the Editor Issue 247

by Letters(more info)

listed in letters to the editor, originally published in issue 247 - July 2018

Dr Andrew Wakefield vs Brian Deer Highwire Interview Del Bigtree

This hour-long interview of Dr Andrew Wakefield by Del Bigtree starts from the beginning around 1995, documenting the clinical symptoms prompting the clinical examinations of children suffering intestinal conditions such as Crohn’s disease and autism symptoms following vaccination with the MMR vaccine. Verified evidence is disclosed including granting of clinical permissions, as well as inaccuracies portrayed by the prosecution in their trial of Dr Wakefield which led to the loss of his licence, although the other physicians were granted their licences. Also revealed were the relationships between the pharmaceutical and media corporations which prosecuted Dr Wakefield.




Night Owls have Higher Risk of Dying Sooner

Evening types have 10 percent higher risk of dying sooner than morning counterparts 

  • First study to show ‘owls’ have higher mortality;
  • Switch to summer time (daylight savings time) is much harder for them;
  • They suffer from more diseases and disorders than morning larks; 
  • Employers should allow greater flexibility in working hours;
  • Consider abolishing summer time (daylight savings time), scientists say.

‘Night owls’ - people who like to stay up late and have trouble dragging themselves out of bed in the morning - have a higher risk of dying sooner than ‘larks’, people who have a natural preference for going to bed early and rise with the sun, according to a new study from the University of Surrey and Northwestern Medicine in Chicago. The study, on nearly half a million participants in the UK Biobank Study, found owls have a 10 percent higher risk of dying than larks. In the study sample, 50,000 people were more likely to die in the 6½ -year period sampled.

“Night owls trying to live in a morning lark world may have health consequences for their bodies,” said co-lead author Kristen Knutson, associate professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Previous studies in this field have focused on the higher rates of metabolic dysfunction and cardiovascular disease, but this is the first to look at mortality risk.

The study was published April 12 2018 in the journal Chronobiology International.[1] The scientists adjusted for the expected health problems in owls and still found the 10 percent higher risk of death.

“This is a public health issue that can no longer be ignored,” said Malcolm von Schantz,  Professor of Chronobiology at the University of Surrey. “We should discuss allowing evening types to start and finish work later, where practical. And we need more research about how we can help evening types cope with the higher effort of keeping their body clock in synchrony with sun time.”

“It could be that people who are up late have an internal biological clock that doesn’t match their external environment,” Knutson said. “It could be psychological stress, eating at the wrong time for their body, not exercising enough, not sleeping enough, being awake at night by yourself, maybe drug or alcohol use. There are a whole variety of unhealthy behaviours related to being up late in the dark by yourself.”

In the new study, scientists found owls had higher rates of diabetes, psychological disorders and neurological disorders.

How the Study Worked

For the study, researchers from the University of Surrey and Northwestern University examined the link between an individual’s natural inclination toward mornings or evenings and their risk of mortality. They asked 433,268 participants, age 38 to 73 years, if they are a “definite morning type” a “moderate morning type” a “moderate evening type” or a “definite evening type.” Deaths in the sample were tracked up to six and half years later.

The study was supported by the University of Surrey Institute
of Advanced Studies Santander fellowship and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases grant R01DK095207 from the National Institutes of Health. 

Can Owls become Larks?

Genetics and environment play approximately equal roles in whether we are a morning or a night type, or somewhere in between, the authors have previously reported.

“You’re not doomed,” Knutson said. “Part of it you don’t have any control over and part of it you might.”

One way to shift your behaviour is to make sure you are exposed to light early in the morning but not at night, Knutson said. Try to keep a regular bedtime and not let yourself drift to later bedtimes. Be regimented about adopting healthy lifestyle behaviours and recognize the timing of when you sleep matters. Do things earlier and be less of an evening person as much as you can.

Society can Help

“If we can recognize these chronotypes are, in part, genetically determined and not just a character flaw, jobs and work hours could have more flexibility for owls,” Knutson said. “They shouldn’t be forced to get up for an 8 a.m. shift. Make work shifts match peoples’ chronotypes. Some people may be better suited to night shifts.”

In future research, Knutson and colleagues want to test an intervention with owls to get them to shift their body clocks to adapt to an earlier schedule. “Then we’ll see if we get improvements in blood pressure and overall health,” she said.

The switch to daylight savings or summer time is already known to be much more difficult for evening types than for morning types.

"There are already reports of higher incidence of heart attacks following the switch to summer time," says von Schantz. "And we have to remember that even a small additional risk is multiplied by more than 1.3 billion people who experience this shift every year. I think we need to seriously consider whether the suggested benefits outweigh these risks."


  1. Kristen L. Knutson, Malcolm von Schantz. Associations between chronotype, morbidity and mortality in the UK Biobank cohort. Chronobiology International, 2018; 1 DOI: 10.1080/07420528.2018.1454458


Natasha Meredith <>

Media Relations Officer, University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey GU2 7XH

Tel: +44 (0)1483 68 4380



Inaccurate Idea of Own Body Weight may be Strong Factor in Unhealthy Dieting

Overestimating one’s own body weight and a desire to change it are the factors most strongly associated with unhealthy eating behaviours such as fasting, using diet pills, vomiting and using laxatives, according to a study published in the open access journal BMC Public Health.[1] Researchers at Imperial College London found that unhealthy dieting behaviours were more common among adolescent females than males in the US, with 26.2% of females performing an unhealthy dieting behaviour in 1999 and 22.7% in 2013, compared to 10.4% of men in 1999 and 10.1% in 2013.

Dr Filippidis, the corresponding author said: “These findings are important as unhealthy dieting behaviours are linked to serious health consequences, such as becoming dangerously underweight, and are ineffective for long-term weight loss for people who are overweight. In light of the increasing levels of weight mismanagement among youths, this is a pressing issue.  Public health policies should look to helping adolescents improve the accuracy of their weight status perception to help reduce unhealthy dieting behaviours in future.”

The authors also found that females were more likely to overestimate their weight and males were more likely to underestimate their weight, which has previously been associated with being less likely to lose weight. The proportion of both males and females overestimating their weight dropped; from 21.9% in 1999 to 15.9% in 2013 for females and 6.9% in 1999 and 6.1% in 2013 for males. Underestimation of weight status increased among females, from 21.2% in 1999 and 25.0% in 2013, and also in males from 30.6% in 1999 and 40.2% in 2013.

Ms Sarah Chin, first author of the study, said: “High levels of weight misperception increases the likelihood of clinically inappropriate weight change intentions, which was found to be associated to unhealthy dieting behaviours in this study.”

The researchers observed significant racial disparities in unhealthy dieting behaviours, with non-white groups displaying higher levels of fasting and purging which have previously been reported as important precursors of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa respectively. As racial disparities have persisted over time, the authors suggest that this may disadvantage minority groups long-term.

The researchers used data from 113,542 adolescents, collected between 1999 and 2013 in the Youth Risk Behavioural Surveillance System, which monitors the health risk behaviours among 9th through 12th grade students in the US. As part of the survey, adolescents answered questions about their weight perception, weight change intentions and dieting behaviours. The authors looked at the relationship between these factors and unhealthy dietary behaviours. They defined unhealthy dietary behaviours as fasting for more than 24 hours, taking diet pills, powders or liquids and purging behaviours such as vomiting or taking laxatives.

The authors caution that the study’s use of self-reported survey data may have introduced information and recall bias. The cross-sectional nature of this study does not allow for conclusions about cause and effect between perceptions of weight, intentions to change weight and unhealthy dieting behaviors.


1.    Trends and correlates of unhealthy dieting behaviours among adolescents in the United States, 1999–2013. Chin et al. BMC Public Health 2018. DOI: 10.1186/s12889-018-5348-2


"Eccles, Lucy, Springer" <>

Communications Officer BMC,   T: +44 (0)20 3192 5730



Glyphosate and the Epidemic of Child Ill Health - Kids’ Health in Peril from Exposure to this Widely used Pesticide

The revelations about the damaging effects of glyphosate - the world’s most widely used herbicide  just keep on coming.

Last week an international multi-university study[1] led by the Ramazzini Institute in Bentivoglio, Bologna found that, even at so-called ‘safe’ doses, glyphosate-based herbicides can cause cellular mutations and interfere with sexual development and the healthy function of the intestinal microbiome (the community of beneficial bacteria in the gut) in young and adolescent animals.

This finding echoes the real-world experience of US paediatrician Dr Michelle Perro and medical anthropologist Dr Vincanne Adams, authors of a new book What’s Making Our Children Sick?,[2] which looks at the devastating impact of our industrial food system on child health and what they describe as an ‘epidemic’ of child ill health that is spreading across the world.

Drs Perro and Adams note that our increasingly industrialized food system is responsible for an alarming rise in the use of pesticides on food crops, including the herbicide glyphosate. Levels of use are so high that our food is increasingly contaminated with multiple residues of these toxicants. Because childhood and adolescence is a time when the human body is growing and changing at an exponential pace, exposure to toxicants like glyphosate can do much greater damage at this time.

The authors came to London for the UK launch of their book on 24 May 218[3] and spoke about their combined experience in identifying and treating, hard-to-diagnose and hard-to-treat chronic health problems in children by cleaning up their diets in a way that helps restore the microbiome.

Stark Statistics for UK Child Health

The book focuses on the US experience of child health and makes stark reading. But this experience is not unique.

In the UK,[4] nearly half of all family meals are made of up of ‘ultra-processed’ foods; traces of glyphosate can be found in food and water and exposure can occur in parks, on city streets and especially in home gardens. Child health statistics here are equally startling:

  • Between 5-8% of children have a food allergy; 1 in 55 have a peanut allergy and 1 in 40 a cow’s milk allergy.  Hospital admissions for children with food allergies have increased by 700% since 1990.
  • 1 in 11 children and young people has asthma. We have the highest prevalence, hospital admission and death rates for childhood asthma in Europe.
  • Rates of childhood atopic diseases are rising; 1 in 5 have rhinitis, 1 in 3 asthma and 1 in 6 eczema.
  • One person in 210 has Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, conditions collectively known as Inflammatory Bowel Disease or IBD. The rate amongst youngsters is rising.
  • Although more common in adults, around 14% of older teenage children and 6% of pre- to young teenage children have IBS.
  • Around 3-7% of British children are believed to have ADHD, with many are prescribed drugs to try and improve their concentration at school.
  • Headaches affect around half of children by the age of 7, and three quarters of those aged 15. Chronic migraine affects 0.8-1.8% of adolescents and 0.6% of children.

Pesticides on their Plates

The volume of pesticides applied to UK food crops has increased by up to 17-fold in 40 years.[5]From farm to fork a single food item may be doused with 30 or more individual pesticides yet this daily ingestion of multiple pesticides linked to hormone disruption, neurological DNA damage is barely being monitored.

According to the authors, rising levels of ill health among children are “the cumulative outcome of being born into and living in an environment that has been made toxic by agrochemical industrialised food production.”

Even when our children are eating 'healthy' food, there may be problems hidden beneath the surface. In the UK, according to regular reporting by the government’s Expert Committee on Pesticide Residues in Food (PRiF), 60% of all fruits and vegetables sold in the UK contain residues of multiple pesticides.

A recent analysis of 12 years of UK government data on pesticide residues by PAN-UK found worrying levels of 123 different pesticides in free produce supplied to 4-6 year olds under the Department of Health’s School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme. Some of these were substances linked to serious health problems such as cancer and hormone disruption.[6]

Last week’s study adds to the already large and increasing weight of studies showing worrying health effects from exposure glyphosate.[7]

In the UK, government figures show its use in farming – where it is routinely sprayed on crops like wheat, oats, maize and barley but also soya, rapeseed, sunflower seeds and chick peas as a desiccant, to dry them out before harvest – has increased by a shocking 400% in the last 20 years.[8]

The European Union recently extended the licence for this herbicide for another 5 years.[9] The post-Brexit vision for food and farming in the UK is in such disarray that it is likely the UK will not only continue, but increase, its use of this toxic herbicide.

A Revolutionary Approach to Child Health

“New research on the role of the microbiome in health is forcing us to rethink the role of gut health in relation to overall health, even mental health. And, naturally, efforts to explore gut health are refocusing attention on the role of food in creating and sustaining a healthy microbiome,” say the authors.[10]

What’s Making Our Children Sick? provides clinical case studies illustrating how the health problems many children experience – allergies, asthma, rashes, gastrointestinal issues, autoimmune disorders, and cognitive malfunction – can be successfully treated through the gut with a fresh, organic (and therefore pesticide-free, and non-GMO) wholefood diet that can feed and repair the microbiome.

The authors’ insightful and revolutionary approach to child health deserves serious attention.

Notes and References

  1. Three peer-reviewed accepted manuscripts from the pilot phase of the Global Glyphosate Study are available here. The papers will be published in the prestigious scientific journal Environmental Health later in May.
  2. What’s Making Our Children Sick? How Industrial Food Is Causing an Epidemic of Chronic Illness, and What Parents (and Doctors) Can Do About It by Dr Michelle Perro and Dr Vincanne Adams, (Chelsea Green, 2018)
  3. The authors will be speaking at a special event on May 24th at OmVed Gardens, in Highgate. The event is co-hosted by Beyond GM ( and publishers Chelsea Green ( To attend contact Pat Thomas, Director, Beyond GM; ; or 07950-231240
  4. Figures taken from Beyond GM downloadable leaflet Kids in the UK – A Picture of Health? Sources and suggested reading can be found here.
  5. Soil Association, Increased pesticide use and our health, press release November 2017; See also Rawstorne T, Alarming chemical cocktail sprayed on your fruit and veg, Daily Mail, 2017,
  6. PAN-UK, Food For Thought, September 2017;  
  7. For a summary with links, see Thomas P, Glyphosate – What’s the problem?, GM Free Me, 2015; 
  8. Soil Association Not In our Bread Campaign
  9. For more on current glyphosate issues see Beyond GM, Glyphosate in the EU – what’s the plan?, 2017;

10.  Read an excerpt from the book here:; and an interview with the authors here:


"Beyond GM  Info"


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