Live longer with 7 or more fruit and veg a day

Eating seven or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day is healthier than the minimum five currently recommended and would prolong lives. This is the finding of a new study of 65,226 men and women that indicated that the more fruit and vegetables people ate, the less likely they were to die – at any given age – by cutting the risk of dying from cancer and heart disease.

Researchers from University College London used the Health Survey for England, which collects data from people in England each year through questionnaires and nurse visits, to look at diet and lifestyle. They analysed data between 2001 and 2008, which provided a snapshot rather than people’s continuing dietary habits.

By looking at general mortality as well as deaths from cancer, heart disease and stroke, they found that the risk of premature death from any cause decreased as fruit and veg consumption increased. Risk of death by any cause over the course of the study was reduced by 42% for seven or more (up to around 10 portions a day). Fresh vegetables had the strongest protective effect, followed by salad and then fruit. Fruit juice has no benefit, while canned fruit seems to increase the risk of death. This may be because of the sugary syrup the fruit is stored in.

Lead researcher, Dr Oyinlola Oyebode, emphasised that the more vegetables and fruit you eat the better. She said the size of the effect was “staggering”, but added that eating a few portions a day was still better than nothing. Fruit and vegetables could have a protective effect against disease as they contain antioxidants, which repair damage to cells, she said. Dr Oyebode added that both fruit and vegetables contained micronutrients and fibre, both of which are good for health.

5-a-day vs. 7-a-day+
The research findings have attracted a great deal of publicity but no changes, as yet, in Government policy. Public Health England said that they are staying with the ‘5-a-day’ message for now as it is simple to understand and because two thirds of people were not eating five or more portions a day. Other health professionals have pointed to the fact that those who eat lots of fruit and veg are the better-off, educated and more health conscious. This could account for the reduction in risk. Health charities admitted that there would be a real problem promoting a ‘7-a-day+’ message and that it would require subsidies for fresh vegetables and fruit to attempt to reduce the inequalities.

Achieving 7-a-day+
Dr Michael Mosley, wrote an article for the BBC News Magazine, with suggestions on how to reach your seven portions of fruit and vegetables a day.

  • Aim to eat at least four portions of vegetables a day and around three portions of fruit.
  • Eat them, not drink them. The study found no real benefit from drinking fruit juice.
  • Consider starting the day with an omelette with spinach. Spinach is rich in folate and betadine – vitamins that help regulate homocysteine (high levels of which are associated with heart disease).
  • Add strawberries or blueberries to your cereal, or eat an orange.
  • For lunch and evening meal you need to eat vegetables, with fruit as a dessert.
  • Eat them raw or lightly steamed rather than boiled to death.

Which vegetables?
It is recommended that you add as much colour as possible to your diet. The different colours of different plants represent some of the thousands of different bioactive compounds, known as phytochemicals, which keep plants alive and healthy

Leafy greens include spinach, chard, lettuce and kale. They are a good source of minerals like magnesium, manganese and potassium. Cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and other members of the brassicas family contain sulphur and organo-sulphur compounds. Sulphur is essential for the production of glutathione, an important antioxidant, as well as amino acids like methionine and taurine.

Orange and Yellow
Fruit and vegetables with yellow or orange in them are rich in carotenoids. Foods rich in carotenoids include carrots. Carotenoids in carrots can be converted to retinol, an active form of vitamin A which is important for healthy eyesight, bone growth and regulating our immune system. Carotenoids are also found in melons, tomatoes, peppers and squash.

Another class of carotenoids that produces the colour red are called the lycopenes. Red tomatoes contain lots of lycopene. Cooking tomatoes actually boosts the levels of lycopene. The reason is that heat helps break down the plant’s thick cell walls, making the nutrient more available. Heat can destroy Vitamin C in fruit and veg so it is a trade-off.

Blue and purple
Blue and purple foods get their colouring from a group of flavonoids called anthocyanins. You’ll find these flavonoids in blackberries, blueberries, purple carrots and red cabbage.

Garlic, white onions, shallots and leeks are rich in alliums and allyl sulphur compounds.

Portion size
The NHS advises a fruit and vegetable portion to weigh about 80g.

  • One fresh apple, banana or peach
  • Half an avocado
  • Two handfuls of blueberries
  • Seven fresh strawberries
  • One corn on the cob
  • One medium tomato, or seven cherry tomatoes
  • Three tablespoons of peas
  • Two spears of broccoli
  • Half a pepper
  • Two-inch piece of cucumber

Alcohol as a vector borne disease

Definition: Vector (noun)
An organism, that transmits a disease or parasite from one person to another.

Alcohol-related liver disease is normally referred to as a ‘non-communicable’ disease, because it is not contagious and isn’t passed from one person to another.

Some public health experts, however, have pointed out a major similarity with malaria and other ‘communicable’ diseases. They argue that alcohol also has a ‘vector’. But unlike these other health epidemics, the alcohol vector is not a mosquito or a snail but rather the multinational alcohol industry. Unlike mosquitoes, the alcohol industry is rich, powerful and intent on increasing sales and control.

The food and drinks industries have shown time and again their willingness to use anything they can to stop efforts to bring in controls whilst simultaneously looking to open up new markets and reach new generations of customers. Any strategy to reduce alcohol-related disease therefore must include monitoring the industry’s marketing and lobbying, and stop their ability to influence government officials.

The products of food and alcohol companies are, together with tobacco, responsible for the most serious public health problems in this country. Britain now has one of the highest obesity rates in Europe, and alcohol misuse costs over £17bn each year. Rates of tobacco use are falling in the UK, but obesity and alcohol use have not been tackled effectively.
The more we can shine light on the alcohol industry’s efforts to weaken public health controls, the less effective those efforts will be. One of the industry’s lobbying strategies is to contribute to political campaigns. This ensures an open-door policy and a sympathetic ear from friendly politicians. Alcohol companies are obliged to maximise profits for shareholders. Despite this, the UK Government invited the leading food and drinks companies to work in partnership in public health policy planning to reduce the obesity and alcohol epidemics. Sadly these networks include more alcohol and food industry representatives than experts from public health. .
Policies known to reduce harmful alcohol use have not been included in the health policies while those with little impact are central to it. The government’s announcement of minimum alcohol pricing seemed more promising, but the level at which this was set suggests limited commitment to protecting public health where this conflicts with commercial interests.

The government sees food and alcohol companies as partners in health policy but public health sees them as vectors of disease. The vector concept, which is used in infectious disease control, is simple: liver disease and other health and social problems spread by alcohol companies are comparable to how the mosquito vector spreads malaria. The strategies of the corporate vectors need to be studied and countered just as the mosquito is studied to reduce deaths from malaria.

Lessons from tobacco control have not been learnt. The tobacco industry has been demanding a seat at government negotiating tables, promoting voluntary regulation instead of legislation. However, this is the how the UK Government is doing its food and alcohol policy making. Big food and alcohol companies not only have a say but are being offered branding opportunities in health campaigns.

Tactics used by the main food and alcohol companies to market their products and influence the regulatory strategies are similar to those used in the past by the tobacco industry. Tobacco, food and alcohol companies are legally obliged to maximise shareholder revenue. They should therefore oppose any policies that could reduce profitability. Ineffective voluntary measures, like those proposed for alcohol policy will help them to achieve this.

Did you know? World Health Day April 7th
World Health Day is celebrated on 7 April and marks the anniversary of the founding of WHO in 1948. Each year a theme is selected that highlights a priority area of public health. The topic for 2014 is vector-borne diseases.

What are vectors and vector-borne diseases?
Vectors are organisms that transmit pathogens and parasites from one infected person to another. Vector-borne diseases are illnesses caused by these pathogens and parasites. They are most commonly found in tropical areas and places where safe drinking-water and sanitation systems are a problem. The most deadly vector-borne disease, malaria, caused an estimated 660 000 deaths in 2010. Most of these were African children. However, the world’s fastest growing vector-borne disease is dengue, with a 30-fold increase in disease incidence over the last 50 years.

Globalization of trade and travel and environmental challenges such as climate change and urbanization are having an impact on transmission of vector-borne diseases, and causing their appearance in countries where they were previously unknown.

Shisha smoking: Not a safe alternative

Shisha, hookah, goza, narghile and hubble bubble are all names for the method of smoking tobacco through a waterpipe which has been used for centuries by people in the Middle East and Asian subcontinent. Shisha cafés have become popular in towns and cities around the world. A study found that 12% of UK adults had smoked shisha but only 1% used it regularly.

What is shisha?
Shisha is flavoured tobacco that is smoked through a waterpipe. Flavours include apple, strawberry, mango, mint, coconut, liquorice, chocolate and coffee. Fruity syrups make the tobacco damp so wood, coal or charcoal is used to heat the shisha mixture.

Many shisha smokers mistakenly consider the practice to be less harmful than cigarette smoking because the smoke passes through water. The addition of the sweetened flavouring masks the harshness of the tobacco and adds to the idea that shisha smoking is ‘harmless’. But evidence indicates that shisha smoking is not a safe alternative and is linked to the same serious health hazards as cigarette smoking.

Shisha smoking and health
The health effects of shisha smoking are not as well researched as cigarette smoking. However, a one-hour shisha smoking session involves inhaling up to 100 times the volume of smoke inhaled from a single cigarette. The frequency of puffs, depth of inhalation and length of smoking session means shisha smokers absorb higher concentrations of toxins in tobacco smoke. Even after it has passed through water the smoke contains high levels of toxic compounds including tar, carbon monoxide, nitric oxide, heavy metals and cancer-causing chemicals. In addition, the charcoal, used to heat shisha, increases the level of toxic compounds.

Shisha smoking is as bad if not worse than cigarette smoking. It more than doubles the risk of lung cancer, respiratory diseases, low birth weight and oral diseases. It is also associated with cardiovascular disorders.

Health risks of shisha smoking

Health risk  Effect of shisha smoking
Nicotine addiction
  • Increased nicotine levels in shisha smokers
  • Cravings are experienced when levels drop
  • Increased shisha use over time suggests addiction
Carbon monoxide (CO)
  • Blood CO levels in shisha smokers, after 45 minutes, are 4 times higher than smokers after a single cigarette.
  • Shisha smokers report symptoms of CO poisoning – headaches, nausea and dizziness.
  • CO increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases
Lung function
  • Lung function of a shisha smoker is as reduced as a heavy cigarette smoker
Heart and circulation
  • Heart rate is greatly increased after one shisha session and has a harmful impact on the heart and circulation.
  • Shisha smoke contains chemicals known to cause clogged arteries and heart disease.
  • Shisha smoke contains substances known to cause cancers of the nose, mouth, throat, lung, oesophagus and bladder
  • Shisha smoking doubles the risk of lung cancer.
Oral disease
  • Irritation from tobacco juices increases the risk of oral problems and gum disease.
  • Risk of gum disease is increased 5-fold in shisha smokers compared to non-smokers.
Infectious diseases
  • Sharing mouthpieces increases the risk of transmitting serious Infectious diseases such as tuberculosis.
  • Babies born to women who smoked one or more water pipes a day during pregnancy have lower birth weights than babies born to non-smokers.


Carbon monoxide (CO)
CO is a toxic gas inhaled into the lungs by smokers. It robs the blood of oxygen. Here are the readings taken from different smokers including shisha smokers:

CO Levels Parts per million (ppm)
Normal level 0- 3 ppm
Light smoker 10-20 ppm (2-4% of blood not working properly)
Heavy smoker 30-40 ppm (5 – 7% of blood affected)
Shisha smoker 40 – 70ppm (8-12% of blood affected)
Severe symptoms 100 ppm

Secondhand shisha smoke
Secondhand shisha smoke contains smoke from the charcoal used to burn the shisha as well as tobacco smoke. A new study found that the sidestream smoke from a single waterpipe session has about four times the cancer-causing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, four times the volatile aldehydes and 30 times the carbon monoxide (CO) of a single cigarette. During a one-hour shisha session smokers are likely to generate carcinogens and toxins equivalent to 2-10 cigarette smokers.

Shisha smoking and law
Shisha smoking produces secondhand smoke and is covered by the 2007 smokefree law prohibiting this is in enclosed public places.

To task a look at GASP’s full ranged of shisha related products click here


Promotional items work – GASP Top Ten

Free gifts and giveaways really do work. It’s easy to understand why. Giving away something for free can positively impact awareness and recall. Giving away something of benefit, which the recipient is likely to keep with them and use again, provides an effective, low-cost way of reinforcing health messages and increasing motivation.

Well thought out promotional merchandise hits where it matters. The right items will sit on a table, in a pocket, car or bag and are likely to be in constant view, acting as a daily reminder.

So when you are planning your health campaigns for the year ahead, give some thought to using promotional items to give your message a boost and a longer life.

GASP’s best-selling promotional items:

  1. Cash cans: Relevant, fun, useful, good reminder of cash incentive.
  2. Pens: Long lasting; good for slogans and reminders of a health message, brand or telephone number.
  3. Mugs: Long life, constant reminder, useful for rewards and prizes. Slogans such as ‘I’m not a mug’ add interest and humour.
  4. Bendy men: Popular and un-put-downable, the ideal way to add your own message and give it a longer life.
  5. Key Rings: Long lasting, constant reminder and useful everyday item.
  6. Stress toys and tangles: Relevant, good for prompting the message about stress control and keeping hands busy.
  7. Lip balm: Popular, carried in bags and pockets and used throughout the day. Simply add your own health message.
  8. Balloons and stickers: Attract children, fun, cheap, decorative; can be long lasting and targeted to specific campaigns.
  9. Bookmarks: Longer life than leaflets, simple but effective way of giving concise well designed information.
  10. Magnets: Fridge magnets provide a daily reminder of your chosen health message. Relevant and timely.

The eatwell plate – your guide to balanced healthy eating

The eatwell plate makes healthy eating easy to understand by giving a visual representation of the types and proportions of foods that are essential for a healthy and well balanced diet. The eatwell plate model has been tested with consumers and health professionals. The eatwell plate highlights the different types of food and the proportions we should eat them in to have a healthy well-balanced diet. It is not meant to represent the balance required in any one specific meal or over a particular timescale. It is based on the five food groups:

  • Bread, rice, potatoes, pasta and other starchy foods
    Eat plenty, choose wholegrain varieties when you can.
  • Fruit and vegetables
    Eat plenty, at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables a day.
  • Milk and dairy foods
    Eat some but choose lower fat alternatives whenever possible or eat higher fat versions infrequently or in smaller amounts.
  • Meat, fish, eggs, beans and other non-dairy sources of protein
    Eat some and choose lower fat alternatives whenever possible or eat higher fat versions infrequently or in smaller amounts. Aim for at least two portions of fish a week, including a portion of oily fish.
  • Foods and drinks high in fat and/or sugar
    Eat just a small amount.

Also choose food that is lower in salt when you can. Adults should consume no more than 6 grams of salt a day.

Best selling ‘eatwell’ resources

GASP offers a selection of products that highlight the eatwell plate.
These include:
A2 laminated poster of the eatwell plate - Colourful and clear chart.
Healthy Eating - GASP’s new leaflet includes a section on the eatwell plate as well as healthy eating guidelines.
5-a-day fruit and 5-a-day vegetables – 2 mouth-watering and fascinating laminated charts.
The eatwell floor mat - The ideal resource for an interactive lesson about balanced diets. The food pictures on the mat can be expanded with 3D samples of fruit, vegetables, dried foods, cans, and packaging placed in the relevant sections.
Eatwell and Nutrition ‘My BodyBoards’ - Interactive displays using magnetic images of food that enables discussion.
Eatwell fridge magnet - A small but effective daily reminder of balanced healthy eating placed on the fridge door!

GASP has a wide selection of other healthy eating products. Check out the website.

Bon appétit.

Victorious and Glorious No Smoking Day

No Smoking Day (NSD) has led the way for stop smoking and tobacco control campaigns in the UK and worldwide since 1984. When No Smoking Day began, UK smoking rates were 33% of adults. Now smoking rates are around the 20% mark and the emphasis has shifted to encouraging smokers to quit for good rather than just for the day.

How it works

No Smoking Day seeks to attract maximum publicity for smoking and health at minimum cost by creating news stories, photo opportunities and fun events. A network of organisers supports the campaign at a local level by helping smokers who want to stop smoking and by organising interactive events. The campaign supports these activities with the materials, ideas and assistance. No Smoking Day has consistently reached high levels of public awareness among smokers and the public in general. In the early days, No Smoking Day was one of just a few health awareness days. Now there are hundreds of similar campaigns which make it harder to compete but the battle must go on.

Campaign success

So what are the secrets of No Smoking Day’s longevity and success? As someone who has been involved since the beginning, I consider a key factor in NSD’s success was the bringing together of a coalition of health agencies, charities and professional bodies across the UK onto the coordinating committee. This brought together the knowledge, commitment and creativity of most of the key players in public health. This included the Health Education Authority, Quit and ASH, cancer, heart and lungs charities and professional representatives such as the pharmacists and physicians. But it was the network of enthusiastic local organisers who support No Smoking Day that has really given the campaign its OOOOMPH!

Dream theme

An important component of the campaign’s perennial success is the annual theme, slogan and image that offers a fun, fresh and friendly approach to encouraging smokers to quit. The theme offers an opportunity to create events and news stories that attract national and local media attention encouraging smokers to stop in a fun and fresh way. The campaign ingredients are coalition and alliance building, consultation with smokers and local organisers, good PR and communication, creative themes, keeping people involved and evaluation of all aspects of the campaign. No Smoking Day created a tried and tested campaign template that has led the way for the UK’s success in tobacco control. Using a similar NSD formula, campaigns to ban tobacco advertising and sponsorship, to create smokefree workplaces, to remove point of sale displays, raise the age of sale and to offer free services to help smokers to stop have all been successful.

The changing landscape

No Smoking Day has changed status from a coalition, then a charity and has recently been taken in-house by one of the founding campaign members, the British Heart Foundation. Smoking rates have reduced since the 1980s but there is there is still work to be done as one in five adults is still smoking. Once again, we need to pull out the stops to make No Smoking Day 2014 a victory! Local organisers have always been creative in applying the theme to maximum effect in order to attract publicity and inspire smokers to take up the challenge.

Victory will be ours

This year’s theme is a really inspiring one! V for Victory is the slogan and the image shows a hand crushing a pack of cigarettes whilst making a V for Victory sign. Smokers wanting to quit were involved in discussions to find the most relevant approach to this year’s campaign. Many commented on the love/hate relationship that many smokers said they have with smoking. People see smoking as a friend but also an enemy. Many ex-smokers admit that even though it was hard, quitting was a battle worth fighting and winning. The Victory theme sets out to show that they are not alone in the struggle. The NSD posters include the line; “In the battle against cigarettes we can help you win.” So local organisers need to rally their troops and prepare for a full scale advance on the remaining 20%.

Making it work in 2014

There are lots of resources and event ideas that can support your events and lots of ideas to attract publicity and motivate smokers. See below for links to inspire and support you. The concept of Victory can be used in many ways. Quit for Victory or Victory Quit & Get Fit can be a call to action and Victory Voices can showcase testimonials of ex-smokers celebrating their ‘victorious’ achievement. Victory can be used to test visual, verbal and vigour skills. Challenges include: Victory Volleyball, Victory Strictly (dancing), The Victory Voice (singing), Dig for Victory (gardening), Victory Verse (poetry), Victoree Karaoke (smokefree versions of well known songs), Victory Tips (best quit tips), Victory Story (short story), Victory Tweet (quit tips in 140 characters), and Great Victory Bake Off (baking).
The V for Victory sign and the V itself offers great photo opportunities. Smokers signing up to quit can make the V for Victory sign. A group of stop smoking advisors wearing red NSD t-shirts can stand in a giant V shape. Or make a large V from the No Smoking Day resources or crushed cigarette packets.

For more ideas see the GASP ‘Developing the theme’ No Smoking Day PowerPoint presentation and NSD’s Victory Tips in the Download section.

Let battle commence!

Tobacco Control – Waging War on the Weed

Tobacco was introduced to Europe over 500 years ago by the Spanish Conquistadores. When Columbus landed in the Americas he noted that he observed natives smoking a dried leaf. The plant was named Nicotiana tobacum after Jean Nicot, the French Ambassador to Spain, who cultivated the plant for medicinal purposes. …to read the rest of this article click here »

Diagnosed UK diabetes cases reach 3.2 million

In 2013, NHS figures show that there were 3,208,014 adults with the diabetes, an increase of more than 163,000 new diagnoses compared to 2012. This is the biggest annual increase since 2008 and means 6% of UK adults are registered as diabetic. An estimated 850,000 more have diabetes without knowing it. …to read the rest of this article click here »

V for Victory

No Smoking Day’s 2014 theme gets a big V for Victory from GASP. Whether you are a No Smoking Day veteran or virgin, ‘V for Victory’ offers a variety of ideas for engaging smokers, the media, young people and professionals in many settings. Here are some thoughts on why the V for Victory theme is a powerful weapon to tackle tobacco and what campaign tactics the message inspires.

V for Victory is a positive ‘can quit’ message that presents smokers with an inspirational goal that the battle to quit smoking can be won. Smokers can and do vanquish their addiction to tobacco. There are 12 million victorious ex-smokers in the UK and No Smoking Day offers the opportunity for more smokers to take steps to join them in victory. Inspire other smokers to have a go with testimonials of local ex-smokers and how they won their victories over tobacco. Or publicise the figures of how many local smokers have quit smoking with help from the stop smoking services or going it alone.

They say a picture speaks a thousand words and this year’s No Smoking Day image needs no explanation. The crushed cigarette pack clearly represents quitting. The addition of the V for Victory adds a sense of real achievement. A battle has been won! The image is strong and inspiring. The image can be easily replicated for photo-opportunities with a group of smokers and ex-smokers crushing cigarette packets and making the V for victory sign. Or use the giant foam hands showing the same image printed onto the hands. Add even more impact by getting them to step on Big Cig or Puff Ciggy or an inflatable cigarette.

The campaign slogan reinforces the image. It also provides us with the versatile and valuable letter V with its own vocabulary of V words that you can use in promotional and motivational materials. Write quit reasons, tips or benefits using words beginning with the letter V. e.g Vanquish addiction, Vitality – more energy, Verve and longer life, Vigour and strength, Vanity – fewer wrinkles, Virility – reduced risk of impotence, Visits to faraway places, Voice box improved, Vast saving, Value children’s health.

The word VICTORY is associated with conquest and triumph in a battle against a foe. This provides the potential for using warrior words in any promotional text. The word ‘Victory’ also appears in many existing quotations, slogans and posters and these could all be used for your No Smoking Day events. Name your stop smoking services or stalls ‘Quit for Victory’ or have a Victory parade of advisors and quitters. And for the CO monitor, that essential tool for engaging smokers on a stall, why not call it a Vict-O-Meter and make a chart to interpret the results as a giant V.

Vintage is trendy and this V for Victory theme has a built in retro 1940s feel. Use the opportunity to style stalls and staff with a 1940s look with names such as ‘Blitz on Quitz’. Include gas masks or 1940s photos (see Google images for examples) and add some 1940s music. Or organise a 1940s Tea Dance with Quit for Victory talk and advice. Any media stories could highlight how ubiquitous smoking was during the 1940s prior to research published in the early 1950s linking smoking and lung cancer.

V for Victory is most associated with Churchill and the end of the Second World War. But wartime slogans such as KEEP CALM and CARRY ON appear on everything from mugs to t-shirts. 2014 also marks the centenary of the Great War. The numbers killed by tobacco in the 20th century Deaths from smoking in the 20th century exceed the numbers killed in both world wars and this can be used to help emphasise the just how damaging tobacco has been to our society.

Links to smoking and war can also be made by presenting historical facts about how smoking has spread through various conflicts. Napoleonic wars spread cigarette use from Spain to part of Europe. Soldiers in the Crimean War brought cigarettes back to the UK and it was during both World Wars when smoking became common practice. The language of warfare can also be used for educational projects to describe how tobacco smoke attacks our bodies advancing through lungs before marauding through the blood to invade our defences.

Check out the No Smoking Day website and shop

For some great ideas for events and register on the Kick Butts campaign:

For more information click here