Study: Added sugars in diet can decrease your child’s cognitive scores

Before diving into a recent study from The American Journal of Preventative Medicine, a few facts:

This was a prospective study. That means a group of people are observed for a stated period of time, and behaviors such as food intake are assessed. Then outcomes are measured. This is often the type of research used in nutrition. A clinical trial is an experiment where a group of people are given a drug, procedure or something food related, and again, outcomes are measured. In clinical trials a control group is used to determine if the outcome is statistically better then no treatment.

With a clinical trial, it can be stated that a new drug or procedure caused the outcome. In a prospective study, we can only say there was a correlation between the food or diet, not causation. It is difficult and expensive to do a multi-year clinical trial on food intake. The study I’m reporting looked at sugar intake over three years.

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This study consisted of 1,234 mother child pairs. Maternal sugar, beverage and fruit intake during pregnancy was assessed. Mothers reported on their child’s food intake at early childhood visits. Cognitive testing was performed on the children.

The children of mothers consuming the most sugar or sugar substitutes during pregnancy had children with lowered cognitive scores. Early childhood consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages was also associated with decreased performance on cognitive tests. This study found no association between childhood diet soda consumption and test scores. Fruit consumption was associated with higher cognitive function scores in early and mid childhood. Most of the sugar in these analyzed diets was from sugar-sweetened beverages.

The Dietary Guidelines recommend no more than 10 percent of calories from added sugars. The American Heart Association recommends women and children have no more than 100 calories a day from sugar. One soda puts most people over the limit. Stay smart with occasional soda and daily fruit.

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Raw Oysters Are Behind a U.S. and Canada Norovirus Outbreak

Raw Canadian oysters are likely behind a norovirus outbreak that has both Canadian and American health officials warning consumers to use caution.

The California Department of Public Health on Tuesday said that approximately 100 people there have become sick after eating oysters from Baynes Sound in British Columbia. The department said several people have tested positive for norovirus, a highly contagious infection that causes inflammation of the stomach and/or intestines and results in symptoms including vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, fever and stomach pain.

Nearly 200 people in Canada have reported gastrointestinal illness associated with the outbreak, and multiple people there have tested positive for norovirus, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday also warned consumers that the problem may extend beyond California and Canada. The agency has confirmed that the potentially tainted oysters were also distributed to Alaska, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York and Washington, and warn that they may have reached other states as well. The FDA is urging retailers and consumers not to serve or eat oysters that were harvested in four locations within Baynes Sound.

The FDA is working with state health departments to remove the affected oysters from the market, according to the announcement. The farms associated with the outbreak have been closed during the investigation.

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Is a Higher Standard Needed for Campus Sexual Assault Cases? – Room for Debate

A Higher Standard Is Needed for College Sexual Assault Rulings


The Title IX tribunals that have proliferated on U.S. college campuses since 2011 have been enormously problematic.

By federal mandate, U.S. colleges and universities — if they want to maintain access to federal funds — must adjudicate accusations of sexual violence using the “preponderance of the evidence” standard: If a defendant is deemed more than 50 percent likely to have committed the accused act, he or she is declared guilty.

That means that even if the tribunal reviewing the evidence concludes there is a 49 percent chance that a defendant did not engage in the accused conduct, he or she will still be pronounced guilty.

Even though this standard is used for civil trials, the burden of proof for regular criminal trials — which include sexual assault cases adjudicated in criminal courts — is much higher. Criminal convictions require establishing guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Even if a panel concludes there is a 49 percent chance that a defendant did not engage in the accused conduct, he or she will still be pronounced guilty.

In my research, I have found that innocent defendants face a significantly greater risk of being found guilty under preponderance of the evidence than under beyond a reasonable doubt. Qualitatively, that result is obvious, but the quantitative level of increased risk is far less obvious and much more sobering.

Proponents of using preponderance of evidence in campus Title IX tribunals argue that because colleges and universities don’t have the power to incarcerate those found guilty, the lower burden of proof is justified. This implies that false convictions of sexual assault in these proceedings aren’t as consequential to the accused. But consider the fate of an innocent defendant who is found guilty in a university Title IX proceeding, expelled from school and then publicly disparaged on social media as a perpetrator of sexual violence. What of the investment that was put into pursuing a degree that will now be wrongly withheld? And what will happen when this person attempts to re-enroll at another school, get a job, rent an apartment or run for political office?

In addition to the low burden of proof, campus Title IX proceedings have a glaring lack of due process. No justice system should be evaluated solely on the basis of how effectively it punishes the guilty. It is also crucial to consider the risks faced by the subset of defendants who are innocent.

‘Preponderance of Evidence’ Is the Correct Standard for College Sexual Violence Cases


It is an undisputed fact that sexual violence is a major problem in college.

Sexual violence often violates criminal laws but when students are the ones victimized, it also violates Title IX, one of the civil rights statutes that guarantees equal educational opportunity to all students in U.S. schools.

Schools cannot enforce criminal laws, but they do have responsibilities under Title IX. They can’t determine the guilt of those accused of criminal sex offenses, but they must address sexual violence — as a severe form of sexual harassment — when it affects their students.

Schools cannot enforce the criminal law, but they do have responsibilities under Title IX.

Therefore, most colleges and universities voluntarily rejected criminal standards of proof like the “clear and convincing evidence” and “beyond a reasonable doubt” standards long ago. Instead, they adopted the “preponderance of the evidence” or “more likely than not” standard of proof for all student disciplinary proceedings — and not just the sexual assault cases — well before the Department of Education issued its 2011 guidance. This is the standard that both Democratic and Republican administrations have consistently supported and enforced for decades.

Criminal standards would require evidence of a quantity and type that is virtually impossible for schools to access, as they lack court powers such as the subpoena which would compel the production of evidence. But more important for the protection of students, the preponderance standard itself is designed to be equal — it expects the victim and the accused to carry virtually equal evidentiary burdens (with the victim’s burden just slightly heavier than the accused’s).

Criminal law-based standards of proof make protecting the equal rights of all their students harder for schools because they require victims to carry a much heavier evidentiary burden than accused students — “stacking the deck” against them. This unequal treatment further compounds the discrimination experienced by victims, whose educations and lives have already been marred by trauma, fear and often, expensive consequences.

The consequence of treating students unequally, for schools, is more lawsuits and complaints to the federal government. In the past few years, students have filed over 200 complaints against their schools for sexual violence alone. They have also filed private lawsuits, with significant success. In the last 10 years alone, such actions resulted in three publicly disclosed seven-figure payouts by schools and several more just below a million.

These events confirm that colleges and universities should voluntarily stick with the preponderance standard, not just because of our nation’s historical and moral commitment to equality but also for their own self-interest. It makes no rational sense for schools to select an evidentiary standard of proof that makes it harder to comply with Title IX’s equality goals and increases their risk for costly liability.

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Boy, 13, regains consciousness after parents sign papers to donate his organs

A 13-year-old boy who was said to be suffering severe brain injury defied odds when he regained consciousness after his parents had signed papers to donate his organs.

Trenton McKinley, of Mobile, Ala., was hospitalized two months ago after a small utility trailer he was in flipped over.

“I hit the concrete and the trailer landed on top of my head. After that, I don’t remember anything,” Trenton told Fox 10.

Trenton suffered seven skull fractures from the accident. His parents recalled doctors saying their son “would never be normal again.”

“All I saw was a stretcher with his feet hanging out. He was dead a total of 15 minutes,” Trenton’s mother, Jennifer Reindl, told Fox 10. “When he came back, they said he would never be normal again. They told me the oxidation problems would be so bad to his brain, that he would be a vegetable if he even made it.”

Trenton was barely breathing in the days following the crash, Fox 10 reported. His mother ultimately decided to sign papers to donate Trenton’s organs that would benefit five children who needed transplants.

“Five kids needed organs that matched him,” Reindl said. “It was unfair to keep bringing him back, because it was just damaging his organs even more.”

A day before doctors were going to take Trenton off of life support, the 13-year-old began showing signs of brain activity and movement. Trenton began breathing on his own and woke up speaking full sentences in late March, his mother wrote on a Facebook fundraising page.

Trenton still has a long road to recovery and suffers nerve pain and daily seizures. He has had three brain surgeries and will have another procedure to reconnect the missing piece of his skull.

Trenton said he believes he went to heaven before he came back to life.

“I was in an open field walking straight,” Trenton recalled. “There’s no other explanation but God. There’s no other way. Even doctors said it.”

Katherine Lam is a breaking and trending news digital producer for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter at @bykatherinelam

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Restaurant calorie count requirement begins across U.S.

If calories count, then calorie counters will get a big boost Monday as one of Obamacare’s big social changes kicks in: a requirement that chain restaurants, supermarkets and movie theaters begin posting information for all of their offerings.

Although some fast-food chains began posting calorie counts a decade ago to comply with a patchwork of local laws, there has never been a national requirement until now.

The 2010 health care law’s mandate, which had been delayed repeatedly, is finally going into effect.

Analysts say the most visible changes will occur at supermarkets that offer prepared foods at bakery sections, salad bars and hot buffets, yet have been slow to adopt calorie labeling.

The Cheesecake Factory is one of the more prominent chains that will usher in changes on Monday. Nutritional information will be added to online take-out menus, and hosts at each restaurant will have a hard copy available at the front desk.

The company said it is in the middle of a printing cycle, so table menus won’t have the calorie information until early summer.

The Food and Drug Administration says that’s OK because it wants to help restaurants and grocery stores come into compliance over the coming year instead of issuing fines or warning letters.

“Nobody is going to be hammered for not having everything in place,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told The Washington Times.

Americans typically get a third of their calories outside the home, so federal regulators have been working for nearly a decade to help consumers understand what is in each breakfast muffin, afternoon hamburger or evening dessert and make healthier choices.

Roughly 230,000 restaurants will fall under the menu labeling law nationwide, according to the National Restaurant Association.

Big chains such as Starbucks and McDonald’s already are in compliance — you’ll find a 410-calorie Caffe Mocha or a 550-calorie Big Mac on those menus — but lobbyists for pizza chains and other businesses have dragged out the fight. They said the rules would be too costly and difficult to calculate for, say, a pizza with five different toppings.

The Trump administration delayed the rules for another year when it came on board but kept the mandates moving forward.

Dr. Gottlieb said the rules inject transparency and competition into a free market, so they shouldn’t be seen as the long arm of the government reaching in where it shouldn’t be.

“There is a place for providing a basic level of information and having a uniform playing field for the disclosure of that information,” he said. “You’re comparing apples to apples — literally. I think that’s a pro-market notion.”

The calorie rule applies to chain restaurants and similar retail food establishments with 20 or more locations. Movie theater chains and vending machine operators also must comply.

Advocates who pushed for federal standards for years said implementation is a long time coming.

“The desires of consumers were enough to overcome the opposition of the industry to regulation,” said Margo Wootan, vice president for nutrition at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “Consumers want to know what’s in their food, and we’ve long thought they have a right to know.”

What is not clear is whether the numbers will make a difference in what consumers choose.

For one thing, analysts say, many consumers don’t notice the counts, which use the same font as prices.

A 2009 study of low-income, minority populations after New York City mandated calorie counts didn’t detect any change in the amount of calories purchased. In 2011, researchers examined seven studies that looked at calorie postings and found that only two of them reported a statistically significant drop in calories purchased.

Sara Bleich, a professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said there is evidence that labeling rules prompt restaurants to slash calories from their dishes, largely because of a small but “very vocal” pool of consumers taken aback by high calorie counts might ask, “Why do you have a 900-calorie appetizer?”

“I think there’s a lot of consumer shock. It’s those well-educated, vocal consumers,” she said.

Harvard researchers looked at local labeling requirements and found that restaurants reduced the number of calories in newly introduced menu items in 2013 by about 60 calories, or 12 percent, compared with 2012.

Dr. Gottlieb said in a recent blog post that if Americans consumed 64 fewer calories per day, on average, then they would help the nation meet the government’s goal of reducing youth obesity by 2020.

“Over time,” he said, “this can drive population-wide changes.”

The FDA says it has worked to make the rules “maximally beneficial” to consumers and “minimally burdensome” to companies. Calorie counts don’t have to be included on marketing materials, and companies can provide a calorie range on “build your own” foods such as pizzas.

Domino’s, which pushed hard against a one-size-fits-all approach to labeling, said it provides calorie counts on its website because it gets the vast majority of its sales online or over the phone.

For the 10 percent of customers who walk into stores, the company said, it can provide a spreadsheet or menu upon request.

Domino’s hopes this method will satisfy the FDA because changing all of its menu boards would be costly. Many customers know what they want and don’t look at the boards, anyway, spokesman Tim McIntyre said.

Dr. Gottlieb said the agency will review compliance on a case-by-case basis but added that it is unlikely any stores will have to tear up their menu boards if other forms of disclosure are available.

“We’re going to be flexible,” he said.

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Surgeons’ skills improve with age

(Reuters Health) – Surgeons’ skills may improve with age, and male and female surgeons perform equally well, a recent U.S. study finds.

FILE PHOTO: A surgeon washes his hands before enter in an operating room at the Ambroise Pare hospital in Marseille, southern France, April 3, 2008. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier

Medicare patients’ risk of dying in the month after an operation steadily fell as their surgeon’s age increased, Dr. Yusuke Tsugawa of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA in Los Angeles and colleagues report in The BMJ.

There was little difference between mortality among patients of male or female doctors, with one exception. “Patients treated by female surgeons in their 50s had the lowest mortality across all groups,” Tsugawa told Reuters Health in a telephone interview.

Little is known about how age and gender influence the quality of a surgeon’s work, Tsugawa and his colleagues write. Skills could improve over time through experience, or the surgeon could lose dexterity with aging or have a hard time keeping up with changing technology.

To investigate, the researchers looked at mortality 30 days after surgery for Medicare beneficiaries who had one of 20 major operations in 2011-2014. The operations were all emergencies.

Among the roughly 892,200 patients treated by nearly 46,000 surgeons, the overall risk of dying within 30 days of a surgery was 6.4 percent. After adjusting for other factors, mortality rates were 6.6 percent with surgeons under age 40; 6.5 percent with surgeons in their 40s; 6.4 percent with surgeons in their 50s and 6.3 percent for those 60 and older.

Mortality risk was 6.3 percent overall with female surgeons versus 6.5 percent with male surgeons, which was not a statistically meaningful difference.

This doesn’t mean people should seek out older surgeons, or female surgeons in their 50s, Tsugawa said. “In the real world,” he noted, people choose a surgeon based on advice from physicians or family members, reputation and the surgeon’s communication skills.

Studying the quality of care that physicians provide is extremely complex, the researcher added. “We think there are huge variations in terms of their quality and the cost of care they provide. At the end of the day what matters is whether there is an intervention that . . . can improve the quality of care.”

For example, Tsugawa said, the current study suggests that increasing training, education and supervision of young surgeons could be one approach to reducing operative mortality in this group.

Many factors could explain age-related differences in operative mortality, said Dr. Natalie Coburn of Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center in Toronto, who co-authored an editorial on the study. “There does tend to be a trend for better results for patients who are operated on by an older surgeon,” she said in a telephone interview. “This is probably a result of experience and judgment and who they would (operate on versus)who they would select for conservative management.”

Pinning down the quality of care a surgeon provides is “incredibly difficult,” Coburn noted. “It’s very difficult to estimate how well you are doing if you only have a handful of different types of cases. If you only do hip replacements, for example, it’s easier to benchmark yourself than if you’re a general surgeon or a plastic surgeon and you do 30 different procedures throughout the year.”

“It is also fraught with difficulty because of the inability to fully know how complex the patient was, and sometimes (the) surgeons who appear to have the worst outcomes are actually the best surgeons, they’re just taking on the hardest cases,” she added.

SOURCE: and The BMJ, online April 25, 2018.

Corrects second sentence of paragraph 5 to indicate that all operations were done as emergencies

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How Bodybuilder Shaun Stafford Became A Himalayan Marathon Man

Running 42.2km in one go is pretty tough no matter who you are and where you do it. Even if you’re a whippet-thin club runner tackling a flat road race in perfect weather, it’s still no simple feat. And if, say, you’re a 90kg bodybuilder attempting to run a full marathon in the highest mountain range on the planet, then it’s definitely not going to be an easy ride.

Shaun Stafford, bodybuilder, Optimum Nutrition ambassador and Men’s Fitness cover model, has transformed his training this year in an attempt to complete the Everest Marathon, raising money for Himalayan Children’s Charities in the process. Coach caught up with Stafford two weeks before he jetted off to Nepal to talk about the challenge of the race and how he changed his training to prepare for the marathon.

What is the Everest Marathon?

It’s the world’s highest marathon. It takes place at Everest Base Camp and goes up and down four mountains. So it’s not only no air and 26 miles, it’s up four mountains over really rocky terrain. It should be really interesting!

How are you feeling about the race?

OK! There are so many variables involved that it’s almost like you can’t prepare for all of them – if something’s going to get you it’s going to get you. And for me it’s not about setting records, it’s about taking part and hopefully completing it. I’m not exactly built for running, which is part of the fun.

What was your training like before you started preparing for the marathon?

Previously it would be predominantly weight training. I’d be in the gym lifting weights four or five times a week with the focus on getting bigger, getting leaner. My sessions would be fairly short, from 45 minutes to an hour and 15 minutes, and doing a body part a day – standard bodybuilding training. Any cardio would be fairly low-intensity to try and strip that bit more body fat or keep a base level of fitness.

And how has it changed for the race?

I’ve actually tried to drop a bit of muscle mass, because looking like a bodybuilder and running around Everest wouldn’t be the best idea. My body wouldn’t be able to cope. My weight training has dropped to two sessions a week and I’ve filled in the gaps with a fair bit of running. I started off trying to do two runs a week. I started on 1st January with a 10K, then I tried to do a shorter run in the week and a longer run on the weekend, and build it up week on week.

What has been your longest run?

I was planning on doing a 22 [miles], but I only managed 19, which I did about six weeks ago. When I was running the Manchester marathon I blew out my hip and since then I’ve had to cut back on running – I’ve only really got back into it the last week.

My next question was going to be have you had any injury problems? Obviously yes – so how have you coped with them?

I thought my body would adapt to the running and my weight would come down quicker than it has, but it’s actually stayed pretty big, despite cutting the weights down and increasing the cardio. And I think the repetitive impact of all the miles – at the peak I was doing 50-55km a week – has led to a little dysfunction in my hips and lower back, which has meant I had to take a step back.

Have you managed to fix the issue then?

Yeah, I’ve basically tried every available rehabilitation and recovery tool – I’ve had cryotherapy, hyperbaric oxygen treatment, osteo, physio. Anything you can think of, I’ve tried it to get running again, and fingers crossed it’s done the job.

Have you trained at altitude?

I work at a gym in the City, and we have an altitude chamber in there, so the shorter runs in the week have all been done in that. That’s a real bonus. At the moment I’m also sleeping in an altitude tent set to 4,000m and there will be a two-week trek from Kathmandu to Everest Base Camp which will help me acclimatise.

Have you enjoyed changing up your training routine?

Yeah, it’s been a really interesting experience. I’ve been physique training and bodybuilding for seven or eight years, so it’s nice to have a bit of a break and try something a bit different.

Do you think people should vary their training a bit more in general?

One hundred percent. It depends on what you want to get out of your fitness experience, but I think the more well-rounded you are the more chance of longevity you have. If you focus on a niche you become quite one-dimensional. The guys who will be fitter for longer periods are masters of all trades. They can go for a 10K, do some light gymnastic stuff and pick up some weights. Having a base of all-round fitness is brilliant.

What’s been the hardest part of changing your training?

There have been two things from a mental point of view. With the training, I was doing relatively short, intense workouts of an hour, giving it everything, then getting out and recovering, eating and going back to normal. Whereas some of these longer runs I’ve been doing have been three, three-and-a-half hours long, and it’s absolutely brutal – exhausting mentally and physically. That’s been eye-opening.

Something that’s also been hard is actively take a step back from focusing on physique. Your physique takes a hit, you don’t look like you normally do and mentally that can be hard to let go of. I know it’s a short-term thing and once I’ve done the marathon I’ll go back to eating a different way and training in a way I’ve always enjoyed, and my body will re-adapt. But when you look in a mirror… actually it’s worse when you catch up with friends who haven’t seen you in a while and they’re like, “mate, you’re half the size!” But knowing I’m going to be doing something not a lot of people have done and raising a lot of money for a really good charity definitely makes it all worth it.

How has your nutrition changed?

The nutrition for a bodybuilder is very different from an endurance event – the role and impact of carbohydrates in an endurance event is really key. Previously I was on a low-carb diet and now I’m having 400-500g of carbs a day just to get through the volume of training that comes with the running.

The diet is completely different – there’s a hell of a lot more carbs, and a hell of a lot more food. Because if you’re in the gym doing a workout and you’re going really hard you’ll burn 500-600 calories, whereas for me now that’s a short run. If I go on a long run it can be 2,500 calories. The amount of food you have to eat and the amount of carbohydrate is… well, it’s a lot!

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James Dunmore Interview: “I’m A Real Outdoorsman”

James Dunmore would be the first to admit he’s best known as the boyfriend of Lucy Watson, a cast member of reality TV show Made In Chelsea between 2012 and 2016. Dunmore appeared on the show himself in 2015, but departed along with Lucy the following year. Since then, while Watson has devoted her time to her growing business, including a soon-to-open vegan restaurant in west London, Dunmore has thrown himself into fundraising work for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. His next charity challenge – a seven-day, 93km walk to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, 5,895m above sea level – takes place later this year, and his preparation’s about to get serious.

James, how are you feeling about your toughest charity challenge yet?

I am very excited. I signed up knowing it was a huge challenge, but I didn’t really look at the stats! It’s six to seven hours of walking a day for seven days – and I do not like walking! An hour’s walk feels like a day to me, and I’m going to have to do about 93km in a week. My plan in the months before the challenge is to work on my natural levels of fitness. Then, two months before the climb, that’s when I’ll start doing more specific training, like incline treadmill walking and the cross-trainer. I’ll also take myself off to the Lake District and get some miles in up there.

Altitude sickness is a real concern during challenges like this, and can affect anyone regardless of fitness levels. Is that a worry for you?

Yes, it does worry me a little bit because I don’t know yet if or how it will affect me. I will go to the Altitude Centre in London and work with them in some 60-minute sessions. They’ll do some tests to ascertain my sensitivity to altitude, and then we’ll adjust my training accordingly.

What does your training programme encompass right now?

I work out about five times a week and I like the feeling training gives me. I have always trained by myself, but in the past 18 months I’ve been going to the gym with Sam Thompson [one of Dunmore’s former Made in Chelsea co-stars]. Sam had never worked out before and now he’s in the best shape of his life. I keep trying to take all the credit and tell him that I built his body, not him! It’s reaching the point where the apprentice is becoming the master!

What have you got out of helping someone else get into shape?

Training with him gives me more of a buzz and more motivation, because if we’ve arranged to go neither one of us wants to bail out. If I am honest we probably do talk too much when we’re in the gym, but at least we do turn up and it’s better to do something than nothing at all. We do push it, and it is much harder to do that properly by yourself – that used to be my problem. I’d stall quite quickly because I wasn’t training hard enough or I’d do the same things all the time. Everyone has their favourite exercises, and it’s so tempting to favour those. Now I mix up my training a lot more, training with different rep ranges and spending more time on moves I don’t like. The upside of this is that you do notice much bigger improvements when you start working more on your weaknesses.

When you first found out you’d be on Made In Chelsea, did you feel any pressure to look a certain way?

There’s never been any external pressure put on me, no. When I first appeared on the show I was probably the guy in the best shape, so that might have put some pressure on the other guys to up their game! When I was younger I was very sporty and naturally very skinny. I’ve always had good legs, but my upper body wasn’t developed at all. My problem was, and still is, that I find it very hard to put on any weight. I am 27 now, so I expect once I hit 30 and my metabolism starts to slow down my body will change, but at the moment I can pretty much eat what I want and not put on any weight.

You left the show a couple of years ago – what have you been up to since?

After leaving the show I wanted spend more time fundraising for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. It is a charity very close to my heart [James lost two older sisters to the illness; Jodie nine years ago, and Lucinda 11 years ago] and it’s very important to me to do as much as I can to raise awareness and money. I don’t particularly miss being on the show – although it was obviously nice to go on some lovely holidays – but I do miss how it raised my profile so I could do more for the charity.

Your girlfriend Lucy Watson is a staunch campaigner for animal rights and welfare, and recently released a vegan cookbook. What’s your diet like?

I’ve been pescatarian for the past ten months after previously being a big red meat eater. I cut out red meat a year ago and still ate chicken and fish, but was relying too much on chicken, so I cut that out too. I’ve had to learn how to get more protein from non-animal sources. Lucy is vegan and a fantastic cook, so I really enjoy my new way of eating. I feel really good on it – I have more energy, where I used to feel very sluggish after eating meals high in red meat.

What’s prompted you to give up meat? Were you given an ultimatum?

Ha, no, I wasn’t! But Lucy is very passionate about animal welfare, so I did some research into the meat industry and didn’t like what I learned. If we weren’t together I would probably still be eating meat, but only because I wouldn’t be as educated as I am now. I’d still be oblivious to the processes behind the meat industry. I don’t miss meat now. Chicken is so easy and accessible but there are better ways to eat if you do some research, planning and preparation.

You must be used to travelling in luxury and staying in amazing hotels. Does the thought of roughing it for a week in Tanzania excite you or worry you?

I can’t wait to camp on Kilimanjaro. I’m a real outdoorsman. That’s the appeal for me – that adventure. What I am not looking forward to do is bedding down for the night after walking all day, knowing I have to do it all again tomorrow! At least with Kilimanjaro the terrain changes dramatically so the views are going to be new and exhilarating all the time, which will make a big difference when the going gets tough. I’ve been told the hardest bit is the summit, because you have to start at 12.30am to summit at sunrise and get a massive adrenaline rush… and then you have to start the walk back down! I think most people don’t really think about the return leg, but if you walk up you have to walk back down. Getting picked up by a helicopter would be a nice alternative!

What’s the one big adventure that you want to tick off your list?

I do have a long-term goal, but I won’t do it for a few years. I want to do the Arch to Arc, which is a bike ride from Marble Arch in London down to the south coast, a swim across the Channel, then a run to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. The swim is the hardest leg, but I used to be a good swimmer when I was younger, so I’m not daunted. I’m going to start by doing some sprint triathlons and build up from there.

James Dunmore’s Mount Kilimanjaro trek will take place in October 2018. To donate visit Dunmore’s Just Giving page

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Trees can help, natural therapy expert says

Sometimes when you’re feeling under the gun there’s nothing like a breath of fresh air to make you feel better. Turns out there could be a scientific explanation for that.

A new book has been released detailing how to use the practice of “Japanese Forest Bathing” to improve our mental wellbeing.

“Simply by smelling or touching pieces of pine, oak or Japanese cypress wood,” said the author, Professor Yoshifumi Miyazaki, “subjects experienced a calming of prefrontal brain activity, a reduction in sympathetic nerve activity and a rise in parasympathetic nerve activity – all of which amounts to a reduction in stress.”

Professor Miyazaki has been investigating the practice, known as shinrin-yoku in Japanese, since 1992 and has had consistent positive results since then. “Results have shown that subjects experienced lower blood pressure, increases in parasympathetic nerve activity (known to increase during relaxation) and a calming of prefrontal brain activity,” Professor Miyazaki said.

Thankfully you don’t have to travel to Japan to get those results, as shinrin-yoku can be practiced anywhere, anytime. To start try switching off your phone and heading to your nearest bush land for a stroll. Professor Miyazaki recommends keeping a gentle pace for at least two hours to gain maximum benefits.

He advises focusing on being present in your surrounding environment by focusing on sounds, smells and temperatures. Also pay attention to your body as you move through the space and try to release any tension that you may be holding onto. Let the trees heal you.

While we’re on the topic, bring the forest into your home with our essential oil guide. Also how to overcome anxiety in six steps.

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Idaho officials negotiating on ‘state-based’ insurance plan

Idaho officials say they may add more requirements from former President Barack Obama’s health care law to their proposal to let health insurance companies sell so-called state-based policies that skirt some “Obamacare” rules.

Idaho Department of Insurance Director Dean Cameron says he and other officials have been negotiating with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in an effort to come up with a modified approach to the state-based plans that will pass federal muster while still ditching some Affordable Care Act provisions.

“You will probably see us acquiescing on annual limits and essential health benefits,” Cameron said. Potential changes to the state’s proposal include requiring maternity coverage, he said.

Meanwhile, Idaho officials are proposing a slightly different approach to determining premium costs and some other regulations, Cameron said, though the details are still under discussion.

Cameron says the state-based plans are needed to save Idaho’s insurance exchange as premiums continue to rise and some healthy residents opt to go uninsured.

Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter and Lt. Gov. Brad Little announced in January that they would allow insurance companies to sell cheaper policies that don’t fully comply with “Obamacare,” despite not yet having any federal approval for what critics called a legally dubious plan. Idaho was believed to be the first state to do so. Several weeks later, however, Seema Verma with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services sent the state a letter warning that the proposal was illegal under the Affordable Care Act, and reminding Idaho that officials that her agency had a duty to uphold the health care law.

Still, Verma indicated her agency was sympathetic to Idaho officials’ concerns, and the state has been deep in negotiations over the past few weeks. The agency also extended the 30-day deadline that Idaho had to respond, with a new deadline set for May 5.

It wasn’t immediately clear if that deadline would be extended again, though emails and other documents obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request indicated both entities were working toward a solution.

Randy Pate, director of insurance oversight with the federal agency, noted in an email to Cameron last month that Idaho and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services “are engaged in productive conversations regarding the sale of State-based plans.”

Pate also asked Cameron to keep communications between the two confidential to maintain the integrity of the process. Some of the records obtained by the AP were redacted under federal Freedom of Information Act rules exempting certain “deliberative materials” from release.

“They’ve pushed us and challenged us in some ways, and we’ve pushed back and challenged in some ways, and it’s been a helpful discussion,” Cameron said.

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