Sweet tooth: countering one of our most lethal addictions

Sugar is one of the next targets of health policy makers in Europe. It features as one of the ingredients in the latest food reformulation roadmap, just published by the European Commission. This ingredient has crept up in European diets unprecedented levels. As a result it could have serious consequences for the heath of European citizens, reflected in the increase of diseases such as type 2 diabetes. Today, sugar has become very political. And the debate rages on between those concerned for public health and those in favour of preserving consumer choice, avoiding nanny states interventions and protecting the food industry’s market share.

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Diabetes prevention requires multiple concerted strategies

Diabetes is one of the largest global health emergencies of the 21st century. On a global scale, there are an estimated 415 million people aged 20-79 with diabetes. These include 193 million who are undiagnosed. A further 318 million adults with impaired glucose tolerance are also at high risk of developing the disease. In 2015 alone, diabetes and its related complications will have caused 5 million deathsand cost 12% of the global healthcare spend. How can we slow, stop, or reverse the diabetes epidemic?

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Chronic diseases: citizens’ rights and responsibilities

Despite advances in our understanding of management and prevention, chronic diseases are still on the rise. By 2030, estimates point that an additional 52 million people will die from chronic diseases. Public healthcare systems are under strain, and their budgets are getting smaller. How can we reverse the chronic disease epidemic? First and foremost, citizens can help themselves. Some governments in Europe have already tried to encourage healthier lifestyle choices. Is promoting healthy lifestyles authoritarian? Or is a government that fails to do so guilty of neglect?

Nudge towards effective harm reduction

In the past, policy makers assumed that governments could only change behaviours through rules and regulations. now they are designing programmes that reflect how people really act, as a means to induce behavioural change. The ‘nudge’ theory opens the way for nuanced and pragmatic harm reduction policies, argues Alberto Alemanno, who is Jean Monnet Professor of EU Law and Risk Regulation at the Paris School for Business and Management, France.

When negative data fails patients by publication omission

Half of all clinical trials never see the light of day. There are regulations in Europe and the US; they are often ignored. But public pressure has begun to push the pharmaceutical industries to make trial data available. However, in a world where industry, clinicians and medical publishers are complicit in not having clinical trials published in full, it may be necessary to give ownership of clinical data back to patients to gain greater transparency and accountability.

Mistrust towards policy-makers, not misplaced

This opinion piece by Ann Cahill, president of the International Press Association Brussels, critiques the public’s ability to hold decision-makers to account via media. The assessment is that the system has broken down, the old world has disappeared giving rise to a deep and unbridgeable divide between the professionals and the citizens, with vested interests manipulating a political class fed on buzz-words, the latest fad, or their own greed for power or wealth.

The science of sleep, the sleep of scientists

Sleep. We all need it. From working long hours in the lab or field, researchers often get much less sleep than the average person requires. Conducting research into the twilight hours is prevalent in all fields of science, from life science to particle physics. But the cognitively demanding tasks of conducting experiments and analysing data require a clear mind. So how do scientists manage their research—let alone their personal lives—with little rest? Here, a few scientists share lessons about sleep they have learned from their life and work.