Post-Halloween bummer for Freakshake fans
For anyone who isn’t familiar with the concept of Freakshakes, imagine what a kid would do to a milkshake when given the chance and free reign over the entire candy department of a store. Freakshakes not only contain the creamy milky goodness of a traditional milkshake but are adorned with additional candies, chocolates, syrups, whipped cream, sprinkles and pieces of cake. Literal big slices of cake at times. It is therefore not surprising that many of them come in at more than half the daily calories recommended for adults.
Researchers tested 46 Freakshakes from different suppliers and all fell in the red label category for sugar, including examples such as the “Unicorn Freakshake” available at Toby’s Carvery, containing 39 teaspoons of sugar and 1,280kcal. The problem with those numbers becomes apparent when one has a look at the recommended MAXIMUM intake of sugar for an adult: 6 teaspoons. While the shakes definitely are Instagram worthy and fun to maybe share as an occasional treat, the campaign group Action on Sugar now demands a ban on any freak- or milkshake that contains more than 300kcal. Public Health England agrees and is running a sugar reduction programme which is part of the government’s childhood obesity plan and attempts to incentivize businesses to cut sugar by 20% by 2020, including milkshakes and the like. The Freakshake trend is particularly worrying, as obesity rates and incidences of diabetes type 2 are increasing in the UK, with more than 1 in 17 people in the UK already suffering from diabetes. The amount of sugar and calories found in a single serving of a Freakshake is to a certain extent frightening and between all the Halloween candy and the upcoming Christmas feasting period, we should really reconsider if we are in need of monstrous milkshakes.
Obesity = Cancer, but why?
The link between obesity and cancer has been well established and over 1 in 20 cancer cases are caused by excessive weight. This means that only short of smoking, obesity is the number one cause for cancer in the UK. Intriguingly we don’t exactly know why, but researchers have suggested overproduction of hormones and insulin as possible triggers of cancer development. Researchers from Trinity College Dublin have now identified one definitive way in which obesity can cause cancer, by clogging up our immune system with fat. The paper, published in the journal Nature Immunology, reports that one type of immune cells, called Natural Killer (NK) cells are literally clogged up by fat and cannot function properly anymore. While they are still able to recognise tumour cells, their ability to destroy the tumour cells is diminished, thereby rendering them useless for fighting cancer. The researchers used human NK cell cultures, as well as mouse model organisms and found that NK cells failed to reduce tumour growth in obese mice. Interestingly, they showed that by adding a compound that breaks down the clogged up fat in the NK cells, their protective function can be restored. However the researchers suggest that, rather than taking drugs which might come with side effects, simple weight loss would do the trick. So, step away from the Freakshake.
Britain’s got Science
The Bank of England announced that the new polymer £50 note is coming after all and they have asked the public to hand in their suggestions for who they want to see on the new note, besides Her Majesty.
There are currently about 330 million £50 notes in circulation, so whoever will be portrayed on it will surely receive attention from the public. The relatively new polymer banknotes were first introduced in September 2016, starting with the new £5 notes portraying the politician Winston Churchill. The reasoning behind the introduction was that they are generally harder to counterfeit, cleaner and more resistant to damage. While you might think that introducing more plastic into the world is not such a good idea, the Bank of England argues that the polymer bank notes are actually better for the environment as they last longer than the old paper money. One of the downsides is the use of animal fat in the production of polymer notes, but most people probably prefer this to the alternative of palm oil, which is highly unsustainable for our environment.
Everyone who is interested in making a nomination can go to their website and fill in a short form to make their wishes known. The first condition: it has to be a British scientist!
With the current climate of mistrust in Science and “experts”, this is a good opportunity to highlight some important scientists who are not widely known, but have made huge contributions to the advancement of the Sciences. The other conditions are that the individual must be dead and from the field of astronomy, biology, biotechnology, chemistry, engineering, mathematics, medical research, physics, technology or zoology.
So, if you have anyone in mind you would like to see represented on the new money, go ahead and let the Bank of England know! You can nominate your favourite dead scientist until Friday, the 14th of December.